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  • Writer's pictureAnna Robertson

Pilon closing after 42 years

More than just a grocery store, a local Masham landmark and fixture in the community is closing its doors at the end of the month.


Alimentation Pilon, owned and operated by the Pilon family since 1980, provided the village with groceries, a convenient SAQ outlet, and a deli, with Lucien Pilon Sr. behind the counter seven days a week.


Now 84, Lucien Sr. will be able to get some much-deserved rest and relaxation. “I’ll miss it, but I’m getting too tired,” he told the Low Down, standing in front of the colourful dairy aisle. “I can’t do it anymore. I’m 84. It’s time to pull the plug.”


According to Lucien’s son, Lucien Jr., the family owns a farm in the Rupert area and his father and mother Cheryl will be moving there.


“It’s time to take a break and have a somewhat normal life,” said Lucien Jr., 47. “All four of us are feeling that way,” he added, referring to himself, his father, mother and sister Carol who all work at the store.


“It’s going to be kind of a bittersweet thing,” commented Carol, “because, of course, we like coming here, and we like seeing our customers every day, and we like being part of the community.”


She added that running a grocery store takes its toll on both social and family life and she could never really make plans on any given Tuesday or Sunday or any other day of the week.


“When you have the store, you kind of have an anchor that you can never really walk away from,” explained Carol. “We’ve decided that we are going to live a little before there is no life left to live.”


In stark contrast to being tied down, Carol said she will be focusing on her wing-walking career, where she walks on the wings of airplanes while they are flying at airshows. She also said she has plans to develop an e-farming business in the future.


Several factors contributed to the family’s tough decision to close up shop. The biggest one in recent times has been staffing shortages. Lucien Jr. explained that they almost closed in June 2022 because of staffing. “We were only three people, where you need 14 to run the store,” he commented.


Recent road construction in front of the store was not good for business, according to Lucien Jr., and stocking delays posed challenges during the pandemic. Underlying all these issues is the difficulty smaller businesses like theirs have trying to compete with big box stores and large grocery chains, he commented.


He said he feels there is nothing specific to Masham that made the business difficult to run, but that it is just hard for smaller outfits to stay competitive in the current economic climate. “And with the price of gas, everybody’s watching what they’re buying,” he added.


“We’ve been hanging on for the last couple of years. We’ve been trying,” Lucien Jr. said. “We’ve finally got my dad to understand that it’s time to take a break,” he said, laughing.


The store first opened in 1977 and the Pilon family bought it and named it Alimentation Pilon in 1980. In 1992 it burned down and was rebuilt in the same location in 1993. In 1998 the family added an extension and began to operate under the Metro banner. Along the way, the SAQ was added, which really helped the business, Lucien Jr. said. Masham residents knew that they didn’t have to get off the highway at Farm Point and could stop in at Pilon to pick up some beer or a bottle of wine as they passed through, he explained.


With the closing of the grocery store and the SAQ, along with the closure of the gas station last year, Masham residents will now have to make the drive to Wakefield or Farm Point or the the La Pêche General Store in Lascelles to buy food, alcohol, and gas. Lucien Jr. noted that shopping at Pilon provided a convenient service in the village, especially during the pandemic when many people worked from home in Masham.


La Pêche Mayor Guillaume Lamoureux said that as of Jan. 15 he had not yet seen an official notice regarding the closing of Pilon.


“I am very grateful for the service Pilon has provided to the community for so many years,” he commented. “The last few years have been very challenging for small businesses. It was also clear when the IGA was built in Farm Point so close to La Pêche that some members of the community would choose to shop in this new, larger store.”


Pilon is not officially listed for sale, but since they’ve announced closing early in the New Year, three people have come in with offers, explained Carol, “which makes me believe that this will not be an empty building for long.” Whether sold or not, the doors will be closing at the end of the month, marking the end of an era in Masham.

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