A family affair at Courtenay downtown deli

Runge's European Deli now in the hands of third-generation family member

Sean Ferguson knew one thing for sure: his career in construction was growing and leaving it to run a family business wasn’t really on his radar.

That was until he was driving down Fourth Street in downtown Courtenay when his family’s business – Runge’s European Deli- caught his eye.

“I had a vision of someone else owning the store, and that didn’t sit right,” he explained. “There’s always an opportunity to fall back on construction, but I’ll never get another opportunity to continue the legacy of a family business.”

Ferguson is the son of Monika and Roger Ferguson, the second-generation owners of the downtown deli.

Monika’s parents Joe and Linda Runge originally opened the shop in 1969 when they realized the Comox Valley was lacking a European grocery and specialty foods store. In 2005, Monika and Roger took over the business, and 15 years later, the business will be passed down to a third-generation family member, something Ferguson does not take lightly.

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“I’m a huge history person, and here’s a chance for me to continue the history with the store which has been in the exact same building since 1969. Everything was built up around it.”

Although he never envisioned running the store, Ferguson does have memories of spending time in the backroom as a child, helping his family with sweeping and cleaning, and even having family dinners there.

“As a child, it was a novelty having a family who owned it, because I got to pick out candy every time I was there,” he said with a laugh.

Being in the store full-time since February, he noted he has been learning a lot about the range of products the store carries.

“I know all the ones I like, but I’m definitely by far green as they come. I’m learning from the ground up despite being around here all my life.”

Ferguson explained for him it’s important to know all of the inventory and products so that he is able to talk about them and educate his customers – something he believes is a unique element to the shop.

Additionally, he wants to ensure the uniqueness and experience in product knowledge stays with the store; he plans on eventually going to Europe to source products that can only be acquired there.

“The store isn’t broken, so I’m not going to fix it, I just want to improve on it. I want to keep growing what’s always worked – more expertise and to introduce new products; I want to provide customers with a one-on-one experience.”

One of Ferguson’s goals is to have an online presence, and serve both returning customers expeditiously who know what they want while continuing to serve those who would like to sample product and spend time browsing.

“We still have some of the same customers who came in when my Opa (grandfather) was in the store. I want to carry on the conversations – I get to hear some really great stories.”

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Comox Valley Record