Although the founder of Powell’s Supermarket grew up in very challenging conditions during the depression, Herbert J. Powell was, by nature, an incredibly hard worker and a keen entrepreneur just like his father before him. “My grandfather, who was also named Herbert, was a merchant mariner,” Dave Powell explains, President and CEO of Powell’s Supermarkets. “He sailed the world but the months he was home he would raise pigs, had a dairy cow and became the local guy for smoking hams, fish and so on. And the family participated in all those ventures, so that’s where my father got it from.”
Dave’s father, Herbert Powell, was part way through Grade 4 when the economic hardships of the depression put an end to his school days. At 12, he was recruited by a fisherman and became a helper in Labrador. At the age of 16 he felt ready to start his own fishing enterprise so he hired another young man from Carbonear as his helper. With a small boat, a few nets, and some supplies in the hold of the S.S. Kyle, they set off for Labrador to make a living.
OFF TO SEE THE WORLD
It wasn’t long before Mr. Powell wanted to see more of the world and he found himself in Canada (pre-confederation). He went to Montreal, where he became a steelworker.
That occupation lead him to Boston and New York where he, like so many other Newfoundlanders, built the skyscrapers of those remarkable cities.
Once WW2 began and an American base was being built in Goose Bay, Mr. Powell took that opportunity to head back to Labrador. He worked as a logger and then again as a steelworker for some time.
“He tired of that and had encountered supermarkets in the ‘big cities’ and decided he wanted to open a supermarket in Carbonear. The store he started in ‘48 was a shed that his father had in the back garden. He got the boys together, and with logs and horses they dragged the shed down from the garden to the street and went into business.” Within 3-4 years, Mr. Powell had outgrown that space and built another store on the back road in Carbonear, which later became MA Powell’s Bakery.
NEXT GENERATION OF POWELL’S
By 1965, Mr. Powell opened a store in Bay Roberts and the rest, as they say, is history- 70 years of it to be exact!
By that time it was evident the entrepreneurial spirit was passed on to another generation of Powell’s.
Dave worked in all areas of his father’s store and as he grew older so did his skill set and his hours in the supermarket. Dave shared his father’s vision for expansion and was instrumental in the growth that occurred in the years to follow.
“I enjoyed business and expansion and so I was a big part of the renovations, the transformation from a tiny meat room to a bigger more modern meat room, and I was the person who brought Golden Crust Bakery into the supermarket,” Dave adds. “I enjoyed all of that tremendously, as well as building the store (now the Atlantic Restaurant Supplies location). Opening the stores in Harbour Grace and Carbonear was very exciting.”
There have been countless challenges and successes over the last 70 years, but Powell’s Supermarket, like the Powell’s family, persevered thanks to hard work and an insatiable thirst for achieving new growth and finding ways to better serve customers. Dave, with the support of his mother Isabel, wife Regina, and sons David and Adam, has never lost sight of the importance of pushing forward while remaining a community-oriented business that gives back in every way possible.
“We are very much a part of the communities we serve and people appreciate that. I think father would be proud of the fact that we have continued to grow and go forward in his absence (to reach this milestone). We are a local company and fierce defenders of Newfoundland and Labrador, and we are very proud of that.”