Award sponsored by Bayer CropScience Inc.: Chris Schuh (second from left) from Top Gro Agro accepts the Retailer of the Year award from Lionel Lamont of Bayer CropScience Inc. (far left) at the CAAR’s Choice Awards Banquet.

Top Gro Agro Ltd.

In only six short years, Top Gro Agro Ltd. has made a lasting impact on the small Alberta hamlet of Mallaig. That impact was recognized at the 10th annual CAAR’s Choice Awards Banquet when Chris Schuh, the manager at Top Gro Agro, accepted the Retailer of the Year award on behalf of the company.

“I want to thank CAAR very much for this award and the committee that selected us. We work really hard, just like all the other retailers here,” said Schuh as he accepted the award. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without the tools (we have), much like a carpenter couldn’t do his building without the proper tools.”

Top Gro became a CAAR member just over a year ago, which Schuh says makes the recognition of their hard work that much more gratifying.

“It makes everybody on the team feel good that the effort we’re putting in is being recognized,” he says. “It’s neat to see somebody who is the voice for the industry and advocating for it to notice what we’re doing.”

Dechaine Enterprises, a local agri-retailer that had been a staple of Mallaig and its surrounding communities for nearly 50 years, received new ownership in 2011. With new ownership came a new name – Top Gro Agro Ltd.

Since the creation of Top Gro six years ago, their staff has tripled, they’ve increased their speed of delivering products to customers and they built a larger, faster facility in 2014.

“The ownership built us a beautiful facility in Mallaig, and our customers appreciate it and the energy all our staff puts in. But a lot of hard work goes into it, so we’re really happy to have this plaque and be able to share it with the staff back home,” says Schuh.

The company has also made investments toward customer service, all in an effort to make things run smoothly and reliably for their customers.

“The new ownership has no problem investing in equipment that helps us with service – delivery trucks, custom application trucks – stuff like that,” says Schuh. “It makes things a lot easier when you have the tools to serve customers a lot faster.”

Schuh says it’s this commitment to customer service that he’s most proud of.

“I think customers recognize our service, the long hours and our dedication to make sure that the spring goes quickly and smoothly for them,” he says. “We’re proud of the effort we put in; we know we’re working hard and customers are recognizing it.”

Continuing a practice that was passed down from the previous ownership, Schuh says their employees will go so far as to camp at the facility during the busy season to ensure customers are served quickly when the workload picks up.

“We’re up in the morning when we hear the first trucks pulling in and we stay up until the phone quits ringing,” he says. “That’s kind of what we’ve been known for: when there’s work, we work.”

While the company is known for their work ethic, they’re also recognized for their involvement in Mallaig and the surrounding communities. Top Gro staff support a variety of 4-H clubs, local hockey teams, agriculture societies and are part of the local curling club.

“Everybody likes to volunteer around here and stay involved,” says Schuh. “It’s all friends, too. That’s what’s nice about our customer base – they’re more than just a customer, they’re your curling skip or neighbour, as well. That’s kind of a plus on the personal side as well as the business side.”

Amanda Amyotte, president of the Mallaig AG Society and a local producer, says the positive impact of Top Gro has been felt throughout their community.

“They make you feel like you’re so important. Everybody is recognized by name, not by a cheque or money coming in the door,” she says. “They take the time to inform themselves and keep up to date, so they’re not just worried about what’s happening on the farm – they ask about the family and remind you of upcoming deadlines.

“You walk in there, and to me, you feel like you matter as a person, not just as a customer.”

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