The timeless appeal of South Main Market

The "little store that has it all" in Penticton, B.C.
Dan and Tracy Fehr pose with freshly made bread.
Dan and Tracy Fehr (Photo: Mark Brett)

Going into South Main Market is like stepping back in time. It is all about the tempting aroma of fresh-made bread from the bakery and the laughter of customers sharing news or a little neighbourhood gossip.

During its 70-plus years, the outside of the building has gone through some significant changes, but during that time the owners’ dedication to customer service hasn’t.

“We’ve been really blessed with a lot of long-term loyalty and now we have multi generations,” said co-owner Tracy Fehr who, along with her husband Dan, bought the business 27 years ago. “We have kids who used to come in with their parents and now they have kids of their own that they bring in.”

She says the store is a social hub: “It is a very social environment for sure and I even notice people when they’re here, they’ll often say, ‘Oh hey, I haven’t seen you forever.’ People just run in to each other.”

According to Dan Fehr, they operate the business with a very simple philosophy. “We want people to think that we’re a nice neighbourhood store and that’s what we wanted from the start,” he says “Hopefully it’s our kindness and our good customer service that keeps people coming back.”

Described as the “little store that has it all,” in addition to the bakery there’s fresh and packaged meats, fresh vegetables and just about every other convenience item on your list. But there is one thing that just about everybody comes to the store to buy.

“We make all our bread and buns from scratch every single day so I guess they’re the stars of the show alright,” says Tracy. “We make sandwiches out of them as well and our sandwiches end up being really popular because of that reason.”

For Jan Alden, leaving the store with one of those lunchtime sandwiches this particular day, that’s exactly the reason she stops in several times a week. “This bread is the best and the people are so friendly it feels more like a home than a store, the staff always have a smile for their customers.”

Rene Johnson also had kind words for the bakery. “There is not better bread anywhere. Their sandwiches are great, The staff are even better, so polite, helpful.”

According to Tracy, some of their bakers have been with them for more than 20 years. “They (bakers) take their jobs very seriously and take a lot of pride in it,” she said. “It makes a difference if it’s made on site and without a lot of stuff in it, just the basics and there’s a lot of love that goes into it too.”

Hailing from the Central Interior, Dan was working as manager of a grocery store and Tracy as a dental hygienist when they decided to open a store of their own. After searching the province for the right fit, they just happened to run into an old friend who steered them in the direction of the South Main Market.

“We were impressed with just how much more it was than just a convenience store,” said Tracy. “It just had more to offer than what we expected and people still feel that way today.”

While she admits there are challenges with an older building, changing locations is not in the cards. “We’ve talked sometimes about it, but it just wouldn’t be the same. It just wouldn’t have the same neighbourhood charm. That’s what people love.”

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