Moose Country Petro-Canada is a longstanding business in Whitecourt's highway sector. Originally called Moose Country Tourist Services, the name change happened to help clear up some customer confusion. "We stopped using "Tourist Services" even though that's still our legal name and went with Moose County Petro Canada. People were getting confused that we were the tourist information centre, so they were calling us for information that we didn't know how to answer," explained Megan Reuteman.
Since 2012, Reuteman and her sister Hayden Granger have run the business together. "My dad retired because he had some health issues. Up to 2019, he was involved in major financial decisions, like if we wanted to renovate the store or something. In 2019, he had a stroke. It affected his short-term memory, so now he is not involved in decision-making for the store," explained Reuteman.
Her parents, Art and Bev Reuteman, have owned the business since 1999. "My mom is still involved on the bookkeeping side with the major bookwork like the GST return and taxes at the end of the year and sending out the accounts payable," she explained. Working at Moose Country started for her when she was 11. "I was woken up one day by my dad, and he asked me if I had black pants. I said that I didn't but that I had navy blue pants, and he said, close enough. He said you're going to work because someone called in sick," chuckled Reuteman. "I started working there in 2000, and my sister started in 2003."
When she was growing up, Reuteman said that taking over the family business wasn't something she thought would be her path. "Neither one of us had the thought or the goal that we would be running the business for our parents when we were in school or high school. I was in grade 11 when I took on more management responsibilities such as scheduling, hiring, firing, and making daily deposits." When she graduated in 2006, Reuteman took two years off.
"In those two years, once you start looking at things and you are experiencing life, I realized that to go to university, I should probably take something that I'm already kind of involved in. I have my Bachelor's in Management, and it made more sense for me to get that since we had the business. Even if we didn't have the business by the time I was done, that's something that I could still use for something else."
Now at the head of a locally-owned business that employs 14 people, Reuteman said that her favourite thing about running it is that it's a family thing. "Running a business with your family means you are close. There's always family drama, but we are close and always support each other!" She said she also loves getting to see the customers and talking to people. "Seeing our returning customers who come in every day and chatting with them is great. So is seeing new people that come through and learning what they are coming through Whitecourt for and where they are heading."
The full-service gas station is a favourite stop for many. "We have an automatic car wash and three-car wash bays, and we do propane refill. We are not an exchange centre. We refill your bottle. We also do vehicle propane." Inside the store, customers will find the usual convenience store items and a ton of other things. "We have our tackle shop for fishing and live and frozen bait. We do fishing and hunting licenses, and this year, we do the camping passes for Crown land too." One neat addition to the fishing area is the hand-tied fishing flies done by a local fisherman. They also have a ridiculous selection of car air fresheners. "I don't think there's another place in town that has as many as we have," laughed Reuteman.
Any article on Moose Country Petro-Canada would lack serious substance if it didn't mention ice cream. "We love being able to spread smiles through ice cream at Grannie Gray's," said Reuteman. "The ice cream shop has been around for ages. It has been off and on the Moose Country property over the years, depending on who has owned the shack."
Reuteman said that at one point, the shack was over by Green Gables. "Then it was across the highway. I believe where the Jackpine used to be, in that area. Then I believe one of Gray's daughters purchased it and approached my dad about putting it back onto our property because it always did great here. Since then, it hasn't moved." The Reuteman family now owns it.
The four employees at the shack spend the summer months dishing out many flavours to eager residents and highway travellers. The sign says over 30 flavours, and they are pretty serious about keeping the selection massive. "I always try to have at least 30, but I usually have between 40 and 48 flavours. This year we have 41, between Foothills and Nestle ice cream. We also have sorbet and F'real plant-based protein milkshakes."
Reuteman said that they don't just do ice cream cones. "We can also do floats. A lot of people don't know that. We've always had it on the list, but they might not look far enough down the menu," she laughed. Megan said that people should try out underdogs like black licorice or caramel candy apple. "They get overlooked but are so good!" Rainbow sherbet is a new one and her current favourite. "We are open at Moose Country Petro-Canada from 6 am to 10 pm every day. Granny Gray's is open from 1 pm to 9:30 pm, and the last day will be September 5."
Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press