Freson Markets

The Freson Market story started in 1955 when Frank Lovsin opened a small butcher shop in Hinton, Alberta. The story has yet to end, and Lovsin has put the pieces and people in place to continue the company’s longstanding tradition for years to come.

That original butcher shop was a 24-by-36-foot structure built on skids with just enough room in the back for Lovsin to sleep in. Even though he had two silent partners, Frank and Leo Resek, Lovsin was the shop’s only employee.

“I was completely naïve,” he recalls. “I was 21 years old, and the town had no electrical, water or sewer services. I had managed a grocery store when I was 19, but this was completely different.”

Lovsin managed to keep the business moving and was able to hire one full- and one part-time employee in 1956. In 1962, Lovsin wanted to expand his horizons and find another town where he might be able to do business. Peace River was chosen, and soon, a new store was built. Shortly after that, the company was expanding and new stores were popping up.

As the company grew, the demands of being a store manager and overseeing the entire operation was becoming too much for Lovsin to handle. He created the position of general manager of Freson Market Ltd. and took on more of a behind-the-scenes presence. Bev Tansem helped him perform the administrative duties while Lovsin planned, developed and oversaw the operation of all stores.

As the company continued to expand, more administrative and office personnel were added. The office currently employs eight full-time clerks, one accountant, three computer technicians, a director of operations, an information technology manager, human resource manager and a training and development manager. Mike Lovsin, Frank’s son is now president of Freson Market Ltd., with Frank serving as  chairman of the board.

Today, Freson Markets has 15 locations across Alberta, and it has expanded from the old butcher shop to include groceries, delis and even prepared foods. The operation has grown so much that a few of the locations even have smokehouses and prepare their own sausages.

A Better Shopping Experience

While several grocery chains have moved to low lighting and more of an atmospheric shopping experience, Lovsin has turned the lights all the way up and made all the signage larger and easy to read.

“There’s a lot of baby boomers out there who need more light and bigger signs to do their shopping,” Lovsin explains. “We’ve also made our restrooms more accessible.”

Lovsin has been remodeling some of the company’s older stores to reflect his new philosophy, but he remains true to his core values that he believes has been the recipe for success: service, value and cleanliness.

“We can do a good job with the footprint we already have in place,” he says. “Our stores may be smaller than some, but we still offer a better selection and the best service.”

That selection includes offering a larger deli assortment and a wide variety of prepared foods such as pizza, sushi, Asian food, barbecue and rotisserie chicken, hot turkey and beef, sausages, pierogies, sandwiches and breakfast items. At some locations, Lovsin even offers custom meat cutting for hunters and farmers.

Freson Markets recently celebrated the reopening of the Grand Prairie Northside store. With roses for the ladies and colorful balloons for the kids, Store Manager Cam Bowman and his team members welcomed visitors with a new greeting: “Welcome to Freson Markets – Welcome Home.”

The re-designed store showcased the essence of how Freson Markets is deeply rooted in its families, community and heritage, which the Grande Prairie community has come to enjoy over the years.

That Lovsin Feeling

Lovsin came from humble beginnings, so now that he is able, he helps out in the communities where his markets reside. “What you earn, you make a living,” he states. “What you give, you make a life. We like helping our fellow man.”

That help comes is the form of donations to women’s shelters, food banks and cancer foundations. Lovsin not only donated 15 acres of land to build a hospital, he bought a CAT scan machine for it when it was built. Lovsin also has been active with youth sports, coaching a hockey team and purchasing shirts for a children’s soccer league.

Other ways Freson Markets helps out in the community include High Prairie’s annual rodeo, where the company had a fundraising barbecue in the store’s parking lot. The store matched donations of to the High Prairie & District Sports Complex, giving them a grand total of $3,508.

The company grilled and sold more than 1,500 burgers. Freson Markets also helped to sell $20,500 in tickets for the local Lakeside Cottage raffle.

Freson Markets’ Drumheller location also helped out its community by pledging $100,000 over five years to support the construction of the Badlands Community Facility.

“The Drumheller location has been an important part of the success of our company, and we want to help the Badlands Community Facility with their funding by donating $100,000,” the company says. “We believe in investing in the communities we serve and we make this commitment on behalf of our Drumheller management and staff.”

Lovsin believes not only in the betterment of the communities where he has store locations, but looks out for employees too.

“We’re trying to make our communities more comfortable places to live,” he says. “And I’m trying to make Freson Markets the best place to work.”

To make that happen, Lovsin hires “smart, industrious” people. “We try to encourage, teach and suggest as tools to make our employees more successful,” he says. “That’s how we do our on-the-job training. We encourage new ideas and celebrate results. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff is our most important resource.”

Lovsin adds that the company provides its employees with a competitive compensation package that includes a comprehensive benefits program.

Freson’s Future

Lovsin doesn’t just preach hard work, he lives it. Lovsin sets a good example for his employees by coming in to work everyday. “I’m going to keep doing what I’ve always been doing and that’s going to work every day,” he notes. “There’s no magic in what we do, it’s just hard work. I always say, ‘If you look after the business, the business will look after you.’”

That thinking has served Lovsin well. From his days as a butcher in a shack all those years ago to his 15 grocery stores today, Lovsin has become a true rags-to-riches story. These days, he is planning to build new locations in Alberta and upgrade a few of the existing stores, and as always, he’s looking to provide his customers with the freshest food with the best service.