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Justin Schley steps into new role as head of Quality Foods

Schley previously served as CFO before stepping into new role
Justin Schley has taken the reins at Quality Foods, following the retirement of Noel Hayward at the end of 2023. (Kevin Forsyth photo)

Justin Schley has taken the reins at Quality Foods, following the retirement of Noel Hayward at the end of 2023.

Schley knows the company well, having grown up with it. His father Ken Schley founded Qualicum Foods with John Briuolo and Noel Hayward in 1982 when the three were in their mid-twenties. A few years later in 1986, Bruce Robertson joined the company as a partner, and the three opened Parksville’s first Quality Foods location.

Schley still lives in Qualicum Beach and remembers working at the Qualicum store first and then at a new Parksville store when it opened in 1996.

Before stepping into his new role, Schley was the company’s CFO, and worked closely with his father’s founding partner Noel Hayward for five or six years, giving him the opportunity to continue learning from the people who started the company.

Quality Foods now has stores up and down the Island and employs hundreds of people.

“It really has been part of the fabric of the communities on Vancouver Island,” said Schley.

The company acquired many of its locations from defunct stores — the Qualicum and Port Alberni locations were old SuperValus, Schley pointed out, and the Campbell River store was an old IGA that went out of business.

“We really built it from that and it was based on three key principles,” he said. “It was taking care of community, it was taking care of our customers of course and our employees, and those roots are still alive and well today.”

Schley added those values factor into why the company decided to sell to the Jim Pattison Group in 2017.

“[Jim Pattison] has the same sort of values and traditions, being a B.C.-bred company,” he said. “And his roots are very similar and his values are similar to us.”

Community is important to a company’s success, Schley said, especially in the grocery industry. A grocery store is a natural gathering place and he believes the company has a responsibility to take care of its community and help it thrive.

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Looking ahead to the future, Schley anticipates the grocery industry landscape will continue to change rapidly as it has done since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Inflation’s a big problem. The supply chain in Canada has many, many challenges,” he said. “It’s owned by very few people, where you actually buy the food from. It all comes out of the east, so it becomes a major problem for western-based grocery stores.”

Schley said the idea behind integration and bringing together the Jim Pattison food companies is to become more competitive and lower costs to compete against the likes of Walmart, Costco and Loblaws.

“If we’re going to survive and thrive, we need to lower our costs,” he said. “And this was what the whole decision was based on — integration was based on helping us compete as Quality Foods on the Island and off the Island as we grow.”

The Quality Foods head office will remain in Errington, Schley said.

“This is where the company will continue to run from,” he said. “Although we have investors that are in Vancouver, we’re still a very Island-based, Island-centric company.”

Schley also wanted to clarify a misconception that Quality Foods has been bought by Save-On-Foods and added that there have been no ownership changes since Pattison purchased the company in 2017.

“We’ve all come together in order to help lower our costs so we can pass it on to the customers and continue to compete,” he said.

With that consolidation have come changes to the product mix, and Schley said Quality Foods is working to bring back all the products customers have been missing.

“We just need some time to get that all together, but we’ll never stop listening to our customers, we’ll never stop doing the right thing and we’re just excited for the future.”

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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