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Deli owner recognized for entrepreneurship

WYNYARD, Sask. – Karen Buller thinks her business motto is corny but

true.

“A little deli for your belly,” is what she scrawled on a piece of

paper during a seminar sponsored by the Women Entrepreneurs of

Saskatchewan Inc.

As a member of the group, she learned skills she could apply when she

bought a meat store and delicatessen in this central Saskatchewan town.

Last month, her seven-year-old Main Street Meats business was named a

finalist in the first western Canadian awards for women entrepreneurs.

“I had worked in retail as a clerk so I knew I had people skills. But

the rest I didn’t know,” Buller said.

She can’t explain why she left the health-care field she had worked in

for 10 years. She saw an ad in the local paper advertising the meat

business for sale. With her husband’s help, she bought it.

“It sounds dumb, but I just wanted it.”

She started on April 1, 1996, with one part-time employee. She now has

eight part-time staff.

Buller still puts in 12-hour days working at the deli, then on the

books at night. However, she does reward herself with two days off a

week now.

“I like to run myself into the ground,” she joked, but is serious in

saying business success takes more devotion than nine to five.

Wynyard has two grocery stores but had no deli before Buller opened.

Her shop sells 35 processed meats, various cheeses and fresh-barbecued

chicken, offers deli trays for catering local events and has a

light-menu, 28-seat restaurant.

She also stocks Saskatchewan made products such as Last Mountain jams,

Grandma Beps products and Gordo’s sauces. Ukrainian and Icelandic

ethnic specialties are also sold, as well as fudge made weekly “with

real cream and butter.”

Unexpected delight

She said she is honoured and surprised at being named a western

finalist, and recounts how an exasperated official with the contest

noted that women are reluctant to give themselves a pat on the back.

Buller said women who own businesses tend to be low key and less

competitive than men. Sometimes that’s a disadvantage, particularly if

there is an old boys network in place among suppliers.

Buller likes the rural pace of life, even if the freight costs are

higher than in a city business.

“I know my customers when they come in the door.”

Customer service is her top priority, followed by excellent staff. She

also is interested in hearing about new items or services customers

want. However, an experiment with bulk foods “bombed” when people

didn’t buy the products.

Buller banters with the regulars as they come in the door and said the

community has been good to her with its support.

However, she doesn’t try to make everyone her customer. She knows

there are some people who have never set foot in her business. Some

people drive to cities a couple of hours away to do all their shopping,

but Buller said it may not save as much as they think after time,

parking and fuel costs are considered.

She has had a good year with the award nomination and an expansion to

the back of the shop that allows more room for coolers, inventory and

preparation. But next year may not be so good because of the drought.

“If the farmer doesn’t do well, I don’t either,” she said.

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