Skip to content

Simple principles guide successful Alberta grocer

Frank Lovsin and his family grocery store Freson Bros. has provided a solid foundation to small communities across Alberta. Now the 66-year-old success story comes to Edmonton.

 Ask Frank Lovsin, founder of Alberta's Freson Bros. family-run grocery his guiding principles, and the 87-year-old offers a pretty simple answer.

"Have a purpose in life and treat people with respect. A purpose--a job--gives you the foundation to build your life upon; it gives you dignity and the opportunity to find happiness. And when you treat everyone well, it's reciprocal," said Lovsin, who still goes in to work at the company's headquarters (now in Stony Plain) a few mornings a week. "Liking what you do matters too. For 65 years, there's never been a day I've disliked the job."

Lovsin has lived by those beliefs since he was a young man, finding his own purpose after the mine shut down suddenly in his hometown of Mountain Park, Alberta in 1950. The family moved to nearby Edson and high-school aged Frank found work, first cleaning chickens "a job I really didn't like" and then at a butcher shop. With colleague Frank Resek, Lovsin opened the first Freson Bros. store in Hinton in 1955. It was a space not much bigger than a closet, on a street with no water, electricity or sewer, recalls Lovsin.

"The store was 24 by 32 feet. That first year was interesting," he laughed. "But we put all our talent, energy and resources into that business."

Freson Bros. is a now three-generation 'family affair' headed by Lovsin (with wife Agnes, or 'Granny' as she's known), and three sons Mike, Ken and Doug. Headquartered in Peace River for over 50 years, the family and company move to Stony Plain over a decade ago has likewise been a happy one.

"We have 18 grandkids, and just got our first COVID-19 vaccinations, so it'll be nice to spend more time with family again," Lovsin said, though with the just-opened Freson Bros. store in Edmonton's Rabbit Hill Rd. area, work may be on the front-burner for a while. "We created 150 jobs at the new store. One of the reasons we've kept expanding over the years is to hold onto good people on our staff." Indeed, whenever there's a new store opening, it's not unusual to see Lovsin and 'Granny' taking time to chat with cashiers or sit down with staff for a cup of coffee. 

Describing the Freson Bros. sourdough--a highlight of the bakery and key part of the store's well-loved Father Dough Pizza--as 'simply the best in Alberta', Lovsin said the family even submitted their starter to the Sourdough Library in Belgium, where it continues to be regularly fed with Alberta flour.

While they vary in size, the new 'big city' Edmonton store is around 43,000 square feet, offering the food experiences and family-style grocery Freson Bros. is known for. From the market garden to the hot kitchen (sit down, home-style meals are part of every Freson Bros. store) and bakery, the stores aren't really a supermarket, but a blend of grocery, restaurant and food-to-go sections.

Lovsin said he doesn't mind recognizing the success his family grocery has earned through the years, providing employment to hundreds in 14 smaller Alberta communities, from Grand Prairie and Peace River, to Fort Saskatchewan, Stony Plain and Drumheller. But he knows the future is in "tomorrow, next week, next year. Opportunities are greater than they've ever been."