Pivik has been closed since April 2019. Image: Charley Dutil/Fulcrum
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UOSU promises Pivik will provide affordable options for students while ensuring Union turns profit from student-led convenience store

On Friday, Sept. 10, the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) president, Tim Gulliver, and business director, Nadia Boutkhil, told the Fulcrum about its new plans to reopen the long-awaited student-led business, Pivik.

The beloved bilingual convenience store initially closed its doors at the end of the 2018-19 academic year when the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) was dissolved.

“Pivik was profitable,” said Gulliver in an interview. “But because of other political issues with the [SFUO], different allegations of mismanagement and whatnot, the Federation closed, and as you may know, the UOSU won the referendum.”

The student union’s president added that due to a lack of resources left by the Student Federation and the uncontrollable delays of the pandemic, UOSU had to start from scratch and postpone the reopenings of many student-led businesses on campus. 

The team hopes to open Pivik’s doors by the end of October if they do not continue to be faced with unexpected challenges. 

“We have late delivery of supplies and an unavailability of suppliers. We have just found out that we have to carry out abscess [furniture] in the kitchen,” said Boutkhil in an interview. 

“We cannot be completely sure of the date, but are sure before the end of the year Pivik will be reopened.”

Gulliver assured the Fulcrum that UOSU will make sure that the prices at Pivik are affordable for students living on a budget.

“We don’t see Pivik as an enterprise which is solely there to profit off of the backs of students to an excessive amount. Obviously, it is a business, but it’s a social business. We want to kind of align the values of students and align our values of accessibility, inclusivity, sustainability, equity in the products and in the way that the store conducts itself,” explained Gulliver.

The duo emphasized decreasing food insecurity on campus and being self-aware of the inflation of living standards for many students. 

The UOSU says they are open to new pricing policies that could favour student community members while also not harming their organization’s profit. 

“Students want us to have an affordable business, but they also want us to have a business, which does not harm the UOSU as a whole.”

“The key takeaway is that we’re exploring ways to balance that affordability for us but also ensuring that [Pivik] remains profitable so that we can reinvest all that profit back into Student Services, which is what made Pivik so important in the first place,” Gulliver added. 

The UOSU’s president was sure to tell incoming students that Pivik is notable for its bilingualism, as well as its new priority to offer accommodations to disabled students. It was also the first student-led business to reopen after the university’s transition from the SFUO. 

In terms of employability, Boutkhil told the Fulcrum that Pivik would only be hiring U of O students, both full-time and part-time. 

“We have hired an operations manager, a full-time position, who was formerly a Pivik employee, and two operation coordinators, a part-time students position, who help these operation managers to lead in to manage the store,” said Boutkhil.

“We forecast to recruit next month one head of cashiers as a full-time position. Also, a next Pivik employee, and six cashiers, which will be part-time student positions’,” Boutkhil said. 

The team assured students that they will be taking proper measures recommended by Public Health Ottawa and the university, such as wearing masks, providing disinfectants, limiting the number of customers present in the store, and requiring social distancing. 

Gulliver and Boutkhil also shared their excitement for  Pivik’s new murals.

“For now, we have selected three artists. We would like to complete this team with [the] representation of Indigenous communities especially to realize the mural on the decolonization’,” said Boutkhil. 

While we cannot be certain of the timeline that it will take Pivik to reopen its doors, Gulliver has made it clear that he and Boutkhil are flexible to students’ suggestions regarding store management and previous merchandise making a comeback.  

“I think part of inclusivity also is ensuring that we want our food offerings to be representative of the cultural diversity of our community,” said Gulliver.

“A lot of students from all across the world find that not all products that remind them of home are sold in convenience stores in Ottawa. And so to be able to bring the best of both worlds … explore different goods … which would be very familiar to your international friends or friends with an international background,” Gulliver explained.