While I’ve driven by the Otter Co-op in Aldergrove for years, I never stepped foot inside until this week.

For some reason, I assumed it was just a regular grocery store — one that you had to have a membership to belong to. Both were big misconceptions on my part.

During a recent visit to this popular retail landmark, located 3650 – 248 Street, I discovered that the Otter Co-op is a pretty cool shopping destination here in ‘the Valley’ that offers so much more than just a  place to pick up your milk and bread.

From the bakery that prides itself on making desserts from scratch and butcher’s shop that cuts the meat on site the old-fashioned way to the wide selection of designer clothing, equestrian and farm goods to gifts, toys, pet supplies and so much more, it’s really a one-stop shop for the whole family — one  that has been a fixture in the valley since 1922.

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So you think it’s just a regular grocery store, but then…

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I could spend hours shopping here. Actually, I think I need to come back soon and pick up the top of the left.

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Okay, Jason is going to kill me but I think I also need that maroon purse.

“We also offer competitive pricing, great quality, exceptional service and are a huge supporter of local initiatives,” said Otter’s store manager Jack Nicholson, who took me on a guided tour of the store, including a behind-the-scenes look of the bakery that was busy whipping up a fresh batch of ginger snap cookies, pies and pumpkin cheesecake squares, oh my!

Too bad I was on the last day of the Wild Rose Cleanse, or I’d have gone to town on those delightful little treats.

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Why oh why did I visit the Otter Co-op in the midst of the Wild Rose Cleanse?

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“This bakery will soon be renovated and opened up with large windows  so our customers can see what goes on in our kitchen behind the scenes,”  added Nicholson.

Nowadays, the majority of grocery stores and some retailers offer some sort of incentive to encourage customer loyalty, such as points, free product or Air Miles.

At the Otter Co-op, there’s a cash-back incentive that has thousands of men and women smiling all the way to the bank year after year. You know what this means Valleyites? Yes, you actually get PAID to shop. Who doesn’t want that?

Okay, you’re probably thinking, what’s the cost of membership? Excellent question — I was pretty curious myself.

Turns out that anyone wishing to join the Otter Co-op just has to fill out an application and pay the optional $10 lifetime membership fee.  However, it’s not a requirement to shop til you drop at the store.

“Membership is kept open and voluntary,” noted Nicholson. “Anyone may join, but non-members are quite welcome to make purchases in all departments.”

For those who do sign up for a membership card, each dollar spent  is totaled (note: this includes when you pay at the pump of any Otter Co-op gas stations or pharmacies). At the end of the year, you are issued a cheque & equity, in proportion to this total. For those of you wondering how much cash you could potentially get back, let’s compare the refund to the Air Miles reward system at Shell.

Retailer: Shell (Air Miles)       Annual $ spent:$4,750      Reward: 190 Air Miles = $20 Deducted from Purchase

Retailer: Otter Co-op                Annual $ spent: $4,750     Reward: 4.50% Allocation = $214 Equity & Cash Back

Another big perk I was excited to learn about at the Otter Co-op is the FREE Kids’ Club for children 12 years and under — a program that offers some pretty cool perks for families, including a Personal Kids’ Club membership card, a birthday coupon for $5 off a birthday cake, invitations to annual family friend events,a free cookie when you shop and much more.

I’m so glad I finally took the time to check out this traditional store with non-traditional benefits that’s steeped in history. I will definitely be back soon to sign up for a membership card and start racking up those cash-back dollars.

For those of you attending the Fraser Valley Cork and Keg Beer & Wine Festival next this Friday, Sept. 18th at Cascades Casino, make sure to visit the Otter Co-op booth to sample some of their seasonal goodies and sign up for a membership card. Nicholson will be there to answer any questions you might have about the store. The Otter Co-op is the main presenting sponsor of the event, which is a showcase of local and international wines, craft and premium beer, Fraser Valley delicacies including local producers, restaurants and culinary artisans. New this year is a pop-up liquor store on site.

Guests can expect more than 300 different types of wine, beer and spirits — truly providing a little something for everyone. This will be my third year attending — I already have my outfit picked out and sitter lined up. Can’t wait!!!!

Tickets are selling out fast, so get yours ASAP HERE to avoid missing out on all the fun nibbles, sips and mingling. Also, make sure to check out our video coverage from last year by clicking HERE.

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As a proud media sponsor of the Cork and Keg, ValleyMom.ca is excited to partner with The Otter Co-op to give away two tickets to the Cork and Keg (a value of $143 ) AND a $100 gift card to spend at the Otter Co-op on whatever you wish. To enter, simply name the presenting sponsor of this year’s Cork & Keg below. You must be 19+ to enter and to attend the event. Contest closes on morning of Thursday, Sept. 17th and the winner will be announced on our Facebook fan page. Good luck and hope to see you there.

Contest is now closed. A big congrats to Miruna B!!!! Thank you to everyone who entered and stay tuned for our next giveaway xo

This is an excerpt from the article Love of Wine Leads to Local Discovery which originally appeared on http://www.valleymom.ca.