The changing face of grocery stores

By Tim Lambrinos

Mainstream grocery store names throughout Canada often come and go – some vanish altogether.

Consumers are given market-related explanations such as industry acquisitions, conversions, consolidations, divestments, mergers or unifications.

Even big successful Canadian franchises seem to disappear altogether. A&P (Atlantic and Pacific) grocery stores appeared to fade overnight. In 2008, the store’s long-standing brand name was funnelled into Metro.

The A&P was a mainstay in Canada since 1927 and by 1985 they had acquired another popular grocery franchise, Dominion. This grocery chain had a catchy slogan that was, “mainly because of the meat.”

In 2008, both these Canadian brand names ceased to exist altogether and were swallowed up by grocery giant, Metro. Over a period of only 15 months all Dominion, A&P, Loeb, The Barn and Ultra banners were converted to the Metro name. Food Basics stores were seemingly spared a similar fate because they purportedly competed in the discount food segment of the consumer market.

Many of the main grocery outlets in Emery shut down at some point in time over the past sixty years. The majority have left while a hungry community anxiously awaits a grand supermarket saviour to emerge.

In the 1930’s, the area’s first community food market opened on Islington Avenue near Rowntree Mills Road. The small market was named Andy’s Corner. The store was owned and operated by Andy Graham with his White Rose gas station.

At the time, residents of the Humber Summit community needed to venture up to the butcher’s shop in Woodbridge to obtain fresh meat. Or travel south to food markets in the old Town of Weston. Traditionally in the farming community, food was grown or raised to feed your family.

In August of 1954, our community saw it’s first major supermarket built at Crang Plaza located at Jane and Wilson. It was called Carroll’s Grand Union. The U.S. based grocery giant quickly changed to the Montreal-owned Steinberg’s before shifting their outlet to a newly built Miracle Mart building in 1965. This same grocery building exists today at the Sheridan Mall and is known as Food Basics.

With the building of the Woodview residential community in 1957, Sam and Leon Yermis opened an IGA supermarket in 1960 located at Weston Road and Bradstock.

The large building remains part of the Woodview Park Plaza and now houses the popular discount superstore, Dollar Tree.

At Finch and Jayzel in 1963, Loblaws held a grand opening for their new grocery store in the Finch Main Plaza. The supermarket was later known as Darrigo’s and then renamed to Long Hui.

These days, this plaza’s grocery store has been recently reopened within a newly revitalized B&T Plaza. This grocery store specializes in Turkish food and is known as Antolian Bazaar - Turkish Grocery and Delicatessens.

Just east at Finch and Weston, there once existed a Safeway grocery store that was located at the south end of the Finch West Mall. The Mall stood on the southeast corner of the intersection at Finch and Weston Road.

Today, Medallion’s Casa Development has replaced the former retail and commercial buildings that once operated there.

Further south along Weston Road near Wilson, the history of a very special community store in Humberlea actually began in 1958 when Tom Chow opened his food market located at Weston Road and Gaydon.

His grocery store was named Chow and Sons and would operate at this location until relocating to Dufferin and Hwy 7 in 1967.

East of Islington along Finch, Steinberg’s at Finchdale Plaza first opened in 1968 before becoming Miracle Mart a year later.

Since then, the grocery store has undergone several name changes including having a Galati Brothers operating there at one time. Today, the location is home to Centra Foodmarket.

At Sheppard and Weston, a No Frills Supermarket was once in operation but closed down nearly twenty years ago to make room for the new housing development where the Woolco department store used to operate.

One of the last remaining major-chain grocery stores still operating nearby is at Jane and Finch. This grocery store first opened in 1968 as a Dominion and is now know as FreshCo. A No Frills grocery store also still operates on the northwest corner at Jane and Finch.

The Emery community has been undergoing considerable transformation and rebuilding over the last fifteen years.

Many anticipate a much needed regular grocery chain emerging through significant investment, in a bigger and better fashion central to Weston Road and Finch.

With many families busy working, being on-the-go and having little spare time, perhaps a store with revamped quicker service might be in order but still carry choice products.

Contact the Emery Village BIA at (416) 744-7242 with any suggestions or comments on this topic.