Otter Co-op has served its members at the same approximate location in Langley for 100 years.
On Wednesday, October 19, the co-op celebrated its anniversary at the Langley Mall at 3650 248th Street with live music, food trucks, and other attractions from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The co-op’s chief executive, Jack Nicholson, was “very proud” to celebrate the occasion, noting that only a very small percentage of businesses turn 100.
To mark the milestone, Nicholson said Otter plans to distribute $100,000 to 100 deserving bands, who will be named later this month. This is in addition to the more than $400,000 Otter already raises each year through donations, sponsorships and grants.
Otter board chairman Charlie Fox said it’s “pretty rare” for a company to last 100 years and still be in roughly the same place it started.
From “humble beginnings” as a farmer-founded co-op, Fox said Otter hit $400 million this year.
On Oct. 14, like every year, the co-op distributed profits to Otter members in cash and stock for their 2021 purchases. This year, it totaled $5.9 million.
Fox attributed the success to what he described as the “four Fs”.
“Food, farm and feed, fuel and refined spirits,” Fox said.
Among the supporters who spoke, Elvizio Del Bianco of the British Columbia Co-op Association said co-operatives are “resilient” – twice as likely to survive as other businesses, and they do so by offering “a real and democratic alternative to extractive companies.
Township Mayor Jack Froese, a long-time Otter member, spoke about the social aspects of belonging to a co-op, saying “it’s not just a retail store where you go and buy things, it’s is a community where you will meet friends.”
Froese presented Nicholson with a certificate from the municipality, thanking Otter for “100 years of community service and leadership”.
MP Tako van Popta sent a message wishing the co-op a “happy birthday” and calling the anniversary an “important milestone”.
Opening with the blessing of Kevin Kelly and his son Michael Kelly Gabriel of Kwantlen First Nation, the event included live music from the NiTeHawks, a giant birthday cake, food trucks, children’s games and an Aldor Acres petting zoo.
A time capsule buried at the site in the 1980s was opened for the occasion and proved somewhat disappointing, with the discovery that water seepage had destroyed the photos and documents hidden inside the pipe length.
“I can’t figure it out,” Fox said, as he tried to separate some newspaper pages, so rotten it was impossible to identify the publisher.
Only a moldy Otter baseball cap and pen, two corroded coins and what could have been a flyer for the co-op from that era have survived.
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Otter Co-op operates from locations in the Lower Mainland and Okanagan, including three grocery and drugstores, clothing and hardware stores, 26 Angry Otter liquor stores, two feed mills, a grocery store and hardware stores, two gas stations and 35 gas stations/convenience stores.
Operations include the Angry Otter Tap & Forno, the Angry Otter Brewery in North Vancouver and the Highwayman Pub in Abbotsford.
More images from the birthday party can be seen online at the Langley Advance Times Facebook Page.
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