Alistair Buchan was an hour late for Thanksgiving dinner but don’t worry, his wife Kim understood. “It’s the nature of the business, our customers love to visit and so do we!”
It’s one of the reasons why UFA customers in Bay Tree and Dawson Creek often refer to Kim and Alistair’s Petroleum Agencies as ‘coffee row’. “We have regular customers who come in almost daily to visit and have coffee,” says Kim. “It’s the best part of our day. Even some of the older ones who have a tough time with change, they just want to be heard sometimes and to visit. There are a lot of good old farmers and their stories keep us laughing. We have a lot of fun with them, and we all look forward to their visits.”
In fact, just as we began talking, one of Kim’s regular customers, Bob, popped in for his daily visit to tease the employees, who tease him right back. And he loves it.
Kim and Alistair were high school sweethearts who have been together since 1990. The couple both grew up in Spiritwood, Saskatchewan but had very different childhoods. Kim grew up honing her agricultural skills on a large mixed farm operation with 1,000 head of cows and many acres to seed. To put it mildly, she is no stranger to hard work and there aren’t many challenges she doesn’t face head on. Alistair’s family moved to Spiritwood when he was a baby and owned the local Macleod store. He was always interested in owning a business of his own. When the couple was just 19/20 years old, they moved to Fort St. John, BC for work. A few years later Alistair formed a trucking company and began moving fluids in the oil patch, that meant long stretches away from family.
After many years of working away they began looking for a new venture that would have Alistair closer to home. Fast forward to meeting Tim Church, UFA Petroleum Area Manager and Steve Marshall, UFA Petroleum Director. “We had our first interview with Steve and Tim and at that time we were checking out a few different Agencies including Sylvan Lake. But when the Dawson Creek location came up it was a natural fit, and it felt like coming home in so many ways, moving back to an area we knew. We had lived in Fort St. John for 18 years, and we knew the community, so it was very comfortable,” says Kim. “We ended up traveling to Grande Prairie for our second interview with Steve and Petroleum Area Manager for the region, Owen Payeur, and we all agreed that it was a great fit for everyone. We took the leap and haven’t looked back!”
That was five years ago and although the last few years have certainly thrown some curve balls, including a global pandemic, it’s nothing they couldn’t handle together, and the rewards have been plentiful. “It was a nice change for our family. Alistair had always worked hard and a lot, and for much of our marriage, he worked away,” says Kim. “Being away from home was tough and he often missed so many milestones with our boys including activities like hockey games or wrestling matches. Since taking over the agency, he’s home for those special moments.” In fact, when they first started, Kim would go to Bay Tree in the morning and Alistair would get the kids off to school. “The timing was critical for the boys who were all teenagers, it was special for them to have their dad and important for them to have his strong influence.”
Kim adds that bringing two of her fur babies, Spike and Duke, to work with her are a bonus, and the customers love seeing them too!
Today, the couple’s boys Ryan; 20, Colin, 18; and Tyson, 16 are becoming more independent. Ryan is in nursing school with aspirations to become a doctor. Colin graduated high school last year with a dual credit and his first-year heavy-duty mechanic. Their youngest boy, Tyson, is in grade 12 and is an elite hockey player for the Grande Peace Storm. Kim jokes that she began volunteering for Hockey Alberta a few years back in “subconscious preparation” for an empty nest.
The Buchans say there have been some steep learning curves and the past two years have had their fair share of challenges and triumphs. “I feel like our family was able to slow down which was nice, but at the same time, I joke that we are all on a bad yo-yo diet trying to get through the pandemic.”
Having a tight knit community certainly helps make things easier, she adds. “We live in the Dawson Creek area which still has the small-town farming mentality. Everyone looks out for their neighbour, and if you smile or say hi to someone on the street, you’re sure to get a hi back. It might seem old school, it’s very welcoming and I wouldn’t change it.”
Kim and Alistair balance each other in more ways than one. Not only does Alistair’s calm nature balance out Kim’s energy but they each bring different skillsets to the table.
“I understand farming because it was my whole life growing up,” says Kim. “Alistair understands the oil patch and fuel side of things, together we have a solid knowledge base to draw from and support our customer’s needs, whatever they may be.” To compliment their combined experience and knowledge, Kim says that they have a strong support system between UFA, their employees, and friends. “We are fortunate that we have amazing people in the UFA network. Someone will always help you out and if you can’t find someone, you phone Steve,” she laughs. “In all seriousness, the respect I have for Steve, and the knowledge and comfort that he gives is immense. We have had some hardships and there are days when I’ve just lost it on him but he’s always been there to support us. I also wish I could call Tim Church every now and again, everything is human when you talk with him, and everything is okay. He was the first contact and the first impression we had with UFA.”
Kim and Alistair are very involved in their community. Kim volunteers with the local 4H clubs, teaching a little clipping and showing, they buy a steer each year and sponsor clubs every chance they get. Kim enjoys helping and sponsoring the local rodeo and even brought the World Professional Chuckwagon Driver’s Association on board as fuel customers with UFA. And if that wasn’t enough, she sits on the Junior B hockey team board where members benefit from her hockey knowledge and experience. This year, in honour of their agent anniversary, the couple have donated to Step up and Ride, a driving service offered to seniors in the community.
The couple rave about their employees and how much they trust them. “They help us to be successful and they care about our customers just as much as we do.” And boy do they care. “Our customers are our everything, they are the reason we love what we do. And when you love what you do, it hardly feels like work. Joining UFA was the right decision for our family, and we look forward to many more years.”
So do we, Kim and Alistair.
Congratulations on your agent anniversary and we encourage folks who haven’t visited the Bay Tree or Dawson Creek UFA Petroleum Agencies to make the trip to coffee row, meet Spike and Duke, and share a laugh with the Buchans.