CHESTERVILLE — The man whose name became a grocery retail brand in small-town Eastern Ontario has passed away.
Mike Dean succumbed on Friday to liver disease and cancer at the Garden Villa, according to the family obituary released on the weekend. He was 67 years old.
Though he was born and raised in Ottawa, Mike Dean and his wife, Nancy, set up shop in Chesterville, 41 years ago, when they bought out George Laflamme’s store.
Nancy herself became a brand name, with the ‘Nancy’s Fancy’ in-house line of products sold at their stores.
From their humble flagship location on King Street, the couple and their children grew the Mike Dean’s Super Food Store operation into a chain that eventually encompassed six locations, including an expansive new store erected earlier this century in Winchester.
Although that prominent site was sold off to Sobey’s last year — as part of a broader company restructuring that consolidated the Dean operation into three current locations in Chesterville, Sharbot Lake and Bourget — it’s fair to say the transformation of the North Dundas and Winchester grocery scene of the past 15 years is a direct result of Mike Dean’s entrepreneurialism.
Hundreds of local people have worked for the operation through the years.
“I think he was quite a good guy. I know he treated me pretty graciously,” said Marlene Droppo, who was wooed out of retirement by Dean to work as a product demonstrator in Chesterville several years ago. “It was quite an honour when he asked me to come work for him,” said the 82-year-old Dunbar-area resident. “He was quite an adventurous entrepreneur, I think, and we’re going to miss him.”
Longtime Chesterville resident Bob Gilroy recalled the deceased attending social functions for staff members at Morewood Public School, where both Gilroy and Nancy Dean worked as teachers years ago. “Hard working? Good grief, the hours in the day weren’t enough,” he recalled of the local businessman’s work ethic.
A local Rotarian, Gilroy also remembered the deceased as a supporter of various Club fundraiser events. “He either gave us no-charge food products, or at least no cost. And we could always depend on his staff. They had been well coached.”
In addition to his wife, Dean leaves behind two children — Gordon and Julie and their respective spouses — as well as five grandchildren. These youngest members of the Dean family are often seen following in their grandfather’s footsteps, wearing the company maroon shirt and helping out amid the aisles at the Chesterville store.
The wake is scheduled this Wednesday at the Chesterville Marsden McLaughlin Funeral home, followed by the funeral at Trinity United Church on Thursday. See the obituary.
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