We are very fortunate in this area, to have many business owners with a true philanthropic nature. There are countless less fortunate people, especially this time of year, and for concerned business owners to pick up the slack, is a true blessing. One such person is Terry Vos, owner of Vos’ Your Independent Grocer, in Port Perry.
Terry Vos has not always been in the grocery business; in fact he came into it by pure chance. Born in Belleville, Ontario, Terry’s father worked in the sporting goods industry, and his mother was a stay-at-home mom. Terry was one of three kids and his younger sister still lives in Belleville, whereas his brother has relocated to London, Ontario.
Baseball was Terry’s love at Queen Victoria School and he played catcher and third base. After graduating, Terry attended Quinte Secondary School and became no stranger to work. He managed to obtain an entry position at the local Burger King and worked his way up to shift manager, which included an increase in pay as well as more responsibility. Little did Terry realize this was the start of a very long career in the food related industry.
After high school, Terry had his heart set on Electrical engineering, but once he started his courses at Loyalist College, he soon discovered it was not for him. He started working at Mother’s Restaurants as a manager and did well. In fact, he did so well they moved him to Peterborough, and Terry worked there until the Mother’s chain was taken over by Little Caesars.
At the same time, Terry had noticed a charming waitress who worked for him, but it was strictly against corporate policy for managers to date employees. Terry however was always the entrepreneur and found a way around company rules. He dated Christine for a number of months, before he was ordered not to. “It pretty much amounted to me having to fire Christine, so we could keep dating,” Terry said, and he did. Of course, not without first securing a similar position for her with a friend, who owned a restaurant. The couple continued to date, and a year later they were married.
Christine continued her university education and the new firm moved Terry back to Brockville, as they made a decision to franchise the operations. He stayed with the franchisee for a few years, but he decided the restaurant business wasn’t really for him. Unexpectedly, he was offered a position with the Loeb Grocery chain, where he became the prepared food manager at their Belleville location.
By now the happy couple had two daughters, Stephanie, who currently lives in Italy, working for the World Health Organization, and Ashley, a customs officer, who recently moved to Estevan, Saskatchewan, with the Canada Border Services Agency.
The Loeb chain was sold to Provigo, and Terry was promoted to produce manager. It was not long after, that Provigo was sold to Loblaws, and Terry decided to apply for the management program, under the Provigo banner and attended the course in London, Ontario.
During his training, a store in Kingston became available and Terry was offered a managerial role until he completed his training. The store Terry worked at was sold to Metro and his talents were quickly recognized. Well respected in the industry, Terry became a problem solver for various stores in the Kingston area.
The year was 2005 and Terry received a call from a friend, asking if he wanted to apply for a franchise to own and operate an Independent Grocer Store in Oshawa. “It was a difficult decision,” Terry explained. “Not because of the opportunity, but Christine had just started her ‘dream’ job in Belleville and this would mean a move to Oshawa.”
It took the Vos family two days to make their decision and they moved to Courtice, where Terry oversaw the conversion of a Loblaws store to the Independent, a chain still owned by Loblaws. Terry worked hard and his results were evident. In a short two years he doubled sales. Unfortunately a Walmart Superstore opened nearby, and Loblaws wanted to convert Terry’s store into a No Frills brand.
Terry made it clear that he would prefer the Independent trademark and shortly thereafter, a store in Port Perry became available. “We had never heard of Port Perry before,” Terry said, amusingly. “In fact when we drove up for the first time, I missed the town and we ended up in Beaverton." he smiled as he reminisced. “Christine was having a fit, and frankly I was a bit nervous.” They managed to find Port Perry and in December of 2008 moved here, two months prior to opening Vos’ Your Independent Grocer.
I asked Terry if this was the end of the moves and he was adamant when he said yes. “We have integrated ourselves in the community and love it here.” This is evident by all they have done, and continue to do for our town. Terry explained that in order to succeed in a small community, they had to get involved in every worthwhile cause. They are all about family brand and family values.
The Vos’ took it one step further and initiated a hiring campaign for people with intellectual disabilities. They immediately hired three applicants and are constantly raising the bar on community involvement.
Terry serves on several boards, including Durham North Community Living and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of North Durham, as well as being involved in many organizations. They also introduced the ‘Canada Day Cupcake’ cake, which this year included 4,500 cupcakes enjoyed by thousands. Loblaws was so taken by the idea, they are rolling it out to other franchisees.
Very few people in North Durham are not familiar with Terry and Christine Vos, and if you ever want to chat with them, send them a note at email@example.com. They would love to hear from you.
Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, published author, columnist, and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at photosNtravel.com.
Jonathan van Bilsen
Join Jonathan van Bilsen in the Standard as he begins a series of feature articles on prominent residents of North Durham in his new column, The Story Behind The Person.