Penelakut Tribe chief Joan Brown, with Band Administrator Jim Chisholm, left, and 49th Parallel’s Ron Neubauer, right, cuts the ribbon to officially mark the conversion of the 49th Parallel General Store to the Salish Sea Market. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Island First Nations Tribe assumes ownership of iconic 49th Parallel General Store in Chemainus

Operating what’s now known as the Salish Sea Market provides economic opportunities for Penelakut

The Penelakut Tribe has assumed ownership of the iconic 49th Parallel General Store by the Penelakut-Thetis Island ferry terminal in Chemainus as of Monday morning.

“I think it’s a really good start to continuing business in Chemainus, building relationships, building partnerships,” said Josh James, the Penelakut Tribe’s lands and economic development officer.

“It’s a good opportunity to build capacity for the community.”

“And create an economic base,” added Band Administrator Jim Chisholm.

The store is now known as the Salish Sea Market.

The Penelakut is still developing a plan for goods the store will carry, the number of employment positions it will create and other aspects to the business.

“This is very exciting for Penelakut,” said Chief Joan Brown. “We’re new at this.

“One hundred years ago back, this is our village site. You walk through Chemainus, you won’t see anything Penelakut. It puts us back in Chemainus.”

“This is awesome,” said North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring, who was on hand for the ceremonial ribbon-cutting. “You’re finally starting to re-establish a foothold on this side of the water. This is so fabulous.

“Most of the customer base here is the folks off the ferry. This is their go-to grocery store. This is a perfect fit for everybody.”

It was a bittersweet day in a way for 49th Parallel’s Richmond family after a long tenure as owners of the store. But Wayne, Harmina, Peter and Kathy considered it a proud moment to complete the sale.

“It has been our honour and pleasure for my family to have served Chemainus, Crofton and area for 41 years,” noted Wayne Richmond. “We want to thank everyone for supporting us in this location since March 16, 1979.”

Efforts in Chemainus will now be fully concentrated for them at the new store in the Chemainus Village Square that was a long time coming.

The Richmonds are proud of the legacy they’ll leave behind at the old store, highlighted by Ron and Nelly Neubauer and family and staff raising more than $270,000 for the Tour de Rock Cops For Cancer campaign in the last 14 years.

“As a family touched by cancer, we want to also thank all our friends and customers who have contributed to the 49th cause for Cops for Cancer,” Wayne added.

Ron Neubauer’s tireless efforts combined with community support from donations and purchases made it all possible.

The fundraising venture is not continuing through the store.

“We shut that down in December,” said Neubauer. “We haven’t taken any donations. We sold out of what we had.

“The community has been absolutely awesome supporting the whole program.”

The Richmonds and Neubauer are thus turning the page on the abundant memories created at the site.

“We want to thank our dedicated staff who have worked hard and supported us and will be remaining at this location with the new owners,” Wayne concluded.

“We wish the Penelakut Tribe all the success in their endeavours in this location as we have.”

First Nations

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Peter, Harmina and Wayne Richmond inside the 49th Parallel General Store for the last time under 49th ownership before being taken over by the Penelakut Tribe. (Photo by Don Bodger)

The iconic 49th Parallel General Store by the Thetis-Penelakut Island ferry terminal is now known as the Salish Sea Market. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Lands and economic development officer Josh James, Chief Joan Brown and Band Administrator Jim Chisholm mark the opening of the Salish Sea Market Monday under Penelakut ownership. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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