Kayley Pitts of Boston Pizza presents a cheque for $334.60 to Bulldogs team captain Marcus Walter for the Cancer Society. Boston Pizza donated 10% of sales from a celebrity server event during which the Bulldogs served customers at the restaurant. Photo submitted.

BIZ BEAT: Award-winning Port Alberni businesses recognize community support

One Port Alberni shopper wins big

A-1 Convenience on Redford Street is the luckiest store in B.C. Since 1995, they have sold more $1 million–plus winning lottery tickets than any other outlet in the province.

They have had four $1 million winners and one $5 million dollar winner, as well as many smaller prize winners of thousands of dollars.

“They all lived in the neighbourhood, came every week to get their tickets,” says Jodi Rai, owner of A-1 Convenience. “They all still live in the neighbourhood, in their same houses and they still come to get their tickets every week.”

Winners attract more hopeful lottery customers and the store sold $375,000 in tickets last year, says Rai. The BC Lottery also awarded them Best Rookie Store in 1995 and Outstanding Sales Achievement.

“Every time we sell a big winner, sales go up,” says Rai, but he says they don’t do anything special to encourage sales. “We are just a very lucky store.”

Rai says they are really lucky to have the support of the neighbourhood and the community. The family built the store and gas bar from the ground up, opening in 1993. And the neighbours have supported them ever since. Many of the neighbourhood kids have had their first job at A-1. Later, the laundromat and car wash were added to the business, with half a million dollars invested in the car wash in 2010 and $350,000 in new tanks pumps for the gas bar in 2018.

Rai says the family believes in supporting the community that supports them. He has invested back into the community with other businesses such as the hotel across the street that the family bought in 2002. Recently, they purchased a house in the neighbourhood and are looking at possible business opportunities in the Uptown area.

“We support the community and the community supports us,” says Rai. “We believe in the community. We are always looking to invest into the community or create amenities for the community that are needed here.”

Rai, who lives with his wife above the store, is up at 5 a.m. most mornings to open the store and there to close it again at 11 p.m., as he has for 26 years.

On Friday March 22, they will celebrate their success with a customer appreciation day at the store. Representatives from the BC Lottery will be there along with some of the big winners over the years. The event includes lunch and prizes from noon until 4 p.m.


Jill Gibson loves to create art from wool. The fibre artist is opening Raven Wool Art Studio and Store on Burde Street to share her passion for creating with wool through classes, sales of wool and supplies and selling completed items.

Gibson was raised in Port Alberni by a mom who was always knitting. Gibson has expanded that skill to include felting, spinning, weaving and more.

“Everything in my store is wool,” says Gibson. “I want to help others spin a creative lifestyle. This is something that people of all ages can come and enjoy.”

Gibson plans to offer classes in fibre arts for all ages, including felting, spinning, weaving and knitting. For more information, call 250-731-9976.


The Dave Team, led by realtor Dave Koszegi, has received a prestigious award from RE/MAX Canada. The team received the Transaction Award Top Team for BC for the most real estate transactions completed in 2018. The Dave Team sold 264 properties in 2018.

The award was presented at a RE/MAX North American convention in Las Vegas in February.

When accepting the award, Koszegi recognized the community’s support.

“Thank you to our community of Port Alberni. All of these sales come through the Alberni Valley, and it’s all made possible from the strong, unwavering support of the community – our family, friends and dear clients,” said Koszegi during his acceptance speech.

This is not the first award for Koszegi, who won the individual transaction award in 2004 and has earned three lifetime achievement awards in his 25 years in the business.


Realtor Kat Dwolinsky of Royal LePage was recently awarded the Realtors Care Award by the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board. The award recognizes realtors who give back and improve the quality of their communities.

Dwolinsky was recognized for her work with Valley Cats – Alberni Cat Rescue—a new organization of which she is co-chair. The group works with the SPCA and local veterinarians to help reduce the number of feral, abandoned or unwanted cats. https://pavalleycats.com


A local shopper was the winner in the Buy-Low Foods Free Groceries for a Year promotion.

Sabrina Weightman was the big winner in the contest that took place in Western Canada stores in January and February. Twenty-three stores had approximately 10,000 entries for the contest, says local store manager Randy Johnson. The Port Alberni store also had the big winner seven years ago, the first year the promotion took place. Aside from the top prize, the promotion included instant win prizes.


Sabrina Weightman, centre, was the lucky winner of free groceries for a year from Buy-Low Foods. The prize, awarded s $5,200 in gift cards was presented to Weightman and her family by store manager Randy Johnson, right. Photo submitted.

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