Michael Vatcher, store manager of Save-On-Foods, arrived in Kitimat in June 2020 and has nothing but praises for his new hometown. (Photo supplied)

Michael Vatcher, store manager of Save-On-Foods, arrived in Kitimat in June 2020 and has nothing but praises for his new hometown. (Photo supplied)

In Our Valley: Michael Vatcher

Embracing change and ready to be a fellow Kitimatian

Always embracing change head-on, Michael Vatcher looks to settle down and be part of the Kitimat community.

Born and raised in Prince Rupert, Michael and his siblings, John and Amy, never had a shortage of family affairs.

“Both my parents are from Newfoundland and come from 12 siblings aside, both six boys and six girls total on each side of the family. I don’t know how they survived in such a small house, […] I have cousins and aunts in Newfoundland I haven’t even met yet,” Vatcher said.

Looking for a fresh start, Vatcher’s parents moved out to Prince Rupert where his mom got a job at a local fish plant with his father working at a local Prince Rupert pulp mill.

However, with everyone more or less scattered across the country, families, friends, and neighbours try to make it a habit to go back to Newfoundland every four to five years to massive family reunions.

“I don’t know if it’s a Newfy thing but they call it Come Home Years. […] There was one planned for 2020 but obviously, because of covid, it didn’t really line up,” Vatcher said.

Growing up, Vatcher aspired to become an RCMP officer so shortly after high school he enrolled himself in the academy. Making it all the way to the polygraph phase, Vatcher was turned down from the position as they said he needed to gain more life experience before committing to the RCMP.

“I have a lot of respect for first responders, but [after being turned down from the RCMP] I decided to make my high school job at Safeway my primary job. I also worked at the fish plants [in Prince Rupert] and TD Canada trust for about six years,” Vatcher said.

Getting the opportunity to leave his hometown, Vatcher moved to Vancouver Island when he was given a chance to become an assistant store manager at Safeway in Victoria.

“They originally said I was only going to be there for one year and I’d be transferred again, but I was lucky enough to be down there for seven years because I met a lot of great people there, including my future wife, Taylore,” Vatcher said.

“[At the Tillicum Safeway in Victoria] I got to work with some of best people that influenced me, […] they all showed me a lot of what it takes to be a good grocer, in some ways a lot more of a complete human being. They are some of the most respected people I’ve worked with, not just with customers but to the community and each other, which inspired me,” Vatcher said.

During Vatcher’s years at Safeway, the company was bought out by the second-largest food retailer in Canada, Sobey, who then sold the company to Save-On-Foods.

“It was a bit of an uneasy time, we were wondering what was going to happen with all the Safeway employees, we didn’t know if we were going to get laid off or hired back,” Vatcher said.

However, Vatcher stuck through the ownership changes and is grateful he did, as he believes that Save-On-Foods gives management more freedom to help better the companies community engagement.

“I enjoyed my time with Safeway, but I find that Save-On-Foods has that entrepreneurial spirit and that Ma and Pa commitment to communities. […] Save-On-Foods allows a lot more personalization compared to Safeway who’s has a lot more cookie-cutter mentality,” Vatcher said.

Working up the managerial ranks, Vatcher was transferred to the Save-On-Foods in Burns Lake and worked with several first nations bands and many employees in their late 30’s to early ’40s, but shortly after arriving, Vatcher was transferred to the Kitimat location, in 2020.

“At first we were not quite sure if I should transfer because of covid going on, but the change has been great and it was another positive move. The community is amazing and there’s such natural beauty and spectacular views everywhere, plus there’s a lot of heart in Kitimat,” Vatcher said.

Embracing his new hometown, Vatcher expressed how he only passed by Kitimat for short periods of time for sports tournaments when he was growing up.

“I was someone that grew up nearby but never stayed in Kitimat for more than 48 hours at a time, so it’s great to finally see the local side of Kitimat. […] There’s so much more here that’s meets the eye and I think that the people down south don’t even give themselves the opportunity to explore here,” Vatcher said.

With his time at the Save-On-Foods in Kitimat, Vatcher has become a member of the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce, given multiple donations to local food banks/food share programs, donated to the Kitimat child development centre, and much more.

“It’s such a great feeling when you can genuinely help out a cause,” Vatcher said.

Now fully immersed in the community, Vatcher continues to engage with all non-profits, community events, and local fundraisers.

“We have such a great opportunity and responsibility to give back to the community here [at Save-On-Foods], so I’ve really made that a main goal of mine when I got here. A lot of people think the big box stores don’t volunteer and just take, but my whole life, working with such great people, I’ve wanted to be connected as possible,” Vatcher said.

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