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Loblaws Is Coming to Kensington Market

Despite local opposition, the grocery chain is set to open a 20,000-square-foot location in a new condo development.

Kensington Market is fiercely protective of its identity as a unique, eclectic neighbourhood: after residents learned that a new 15-storey condo development approved by city council last year might end up being home to a Loblaws, there were street protests, and warnings about the damage the chain grocer might do to local businesses.

But it’s now a done deal: Tribute Communities, the developer behind the new condo building at 297 College Street slated to open in 2016, has confirmed that Loblaws will be setting up shop in a 20,000-square-foot space on the second floor of the complex.

Steve Deveaux, Tribute’s vice president of land development, suggests that the store will not become a looming corporate presence: “It’s not a big-box store like some people will attempt to categorize it,” he said. “It’s more of a community grocery store.”

But the arrival of the chain will doubtless contribute to fears that the neighbourhood is headed for increased gentrification and corporatization—although plans for a nearby Walmart have been put on hold because of a year-long large-retail freeze instituted by city council, they do not appear to have been scuppered. So with the possibility of a Walmart still on the horizon, many worry the future Loblaws is a sign of big-box things to come.


  • HotDang

    Not the worst news. I used to have to go to that Zimmerman’s Freshmart for my PC and No Name products and the selection was far from fantastic.

    • nevilleross

      Zimmerman’s Freshmart didn’t/doesn’t overwhelm everything nearby.

      • Doug Earl

        Please supply evidence of a Loblaws store that overwhelms everything nearby.

        • nevilleross

          I can; check out what’s happening to Church Street since the Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws opened up.

          • Doug Earl

            Well, you’ll have to be more specific.

            At the time Loblaws opened up, there were only five businesses on Church between Carlton and Wellesley whose product line competes directly with Loblaws:

            • Pusateri’s Fruit Market (sold from the family in 2013 and now under new management).

            • About Cheese (closed in 2013 and replaced by All the Best Fine Foods, whose owner said she was not worried when asked directly about Loblaws on Carlton, even though she blamed the closing of her east side “All the Best” shop in part, not wholly, on competition from another Loblaws).

            • Reither’s Fine Foods (owner retired March 2012, no indication in press coverage Loblaws a factor)

            • Super Freshmart still going strong as far as I know.

            • Maple Leaf Convenience Store also still going strong as far as I know.

            Going south from Loblaws, between Carlton and Gerrard on Church, the only business that would have competed with Loblaws would have been Church Fine Foods but they closed well before Loblaws opened up.

            A year ago, when Flatiron’s Gift shop closed, the owner blamed it on “high rent, changing demographics and the influx of soulless franchises and big-box stores like the Loblaws at the former Maple Leaf Gardens”, though how a supermarket would be instrumental in the closure of a gay-themed gift store (“Where are people going to get their feather boas?” a salesperson asked) was not made clear.

            The first two factors, and especially the second (changing demographics) seem to be more in play here. It has been noted for several years that long-time residents of the Gay Village have been moving out long before Loblaws came along, prompting a change in both the affluence and the retail pattern of the area. Studies are being done.

            I’m not saying Loblaws had no impact on the closure of some of these businesses, but at best it is one of many factors and there is evidence that other retailers are confidently moving in despite the presence of Loblaws.

            I repeat my comment elsewhere on this page calling for empirical data to be gathered in Kensington Market so that if Loblaws IS responsible for a decline in the area, it will be a provable reality and not just a conclusion drawn from and reinforcing prejudice against big retailers.

  • J B

    Not the best news. The city needs to assist Kensington Market or it will be gone in a decade.

  • kstop


  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    20,000 square feet is a tad larger than most community grocery stores I know. Where “tad” means “order of magnitude”.

    • Lloyd_Davis

      But the average Loblaws store is 49,000 square feet, the average corporately owned store is 65,000 square feet, and some suburban stores top 100,000. So this is compact by supermarket standards. Compare with St. Lawrence Market, which has a 60,000 sq. ft. Metro right across the street, a 60,000 sq. ft. Sobeys four blocks away and a 40,000 sq. ft. No Frills in the Sun Building, five blocks away.

      • tyrannosaurus_rek

        Being smaller than many urban examples doesn’t excuse the “community size” language they’re couching this place in.

  • Suicide Boi


    Bit smaller thank I’d like but this is desperately needed to handle the crowds at nearby supermarkets. The Metro on Bloor & Spadina and the Loblaws on Carlton & Church are often swamped with people. There’s just not enough supermarket space in this part of the city.

    And don’t get me started on how busy the Wal-Mart at Dufferin Mall gets.

    • HotDang

      Let me guess… it gets so busy that you want to kill yourself.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      The Metro at Bloor and Spadina is overcrowded in part because when they took over from Dominion they crammed at least one extra aisle into the store. You can barely pass in some places.

  • SteelesAvenue

    I bet if we did a survey of people’s kitchen cupboards in the entire surrounding area, almost every packaged good would have been bought at metro, loblaws or some other giant store. now they just wont have to walk as far. P.S people who live in the area and drive to dufferin mall to shop at walmart, but who are loosing their minds over a loblaws in the bottom of a residential tower are completely missing the point…

  • eastegg

    They aren’t identical examples, but the St. Lawrence Market is surrounded by three grocery chains (within 500 metres or less) and the mostly independent vendors there seem to do just fine.

    The fact is that people will continue to shop at the stores they already support – as they should – if they care about the neighbourhood. My guess is that most people who live in this area or visit it aren’t buying their grocery staples at smaller independent shops anyway, since these things tend to be quite expensive. So it’s okay to take a trip to Loblaws or Wal-Mart, as long as those stores aren’t in *your* neighbourhood.

    It’s interesting where people will draw the line as gentrification takes place. To date, no one I know of has cried foul over trendy espresso shops, restaurants and bars that all cater to a very specific demographic in Kensington. What people fail to realize is that these are precisely the things that make a neighbourhood “cool,” and therefore a prime target for developers and chain stores.

  • Astin44

    I’m at Kensington regularly for groceries, and frankly, a Loblaws on College isn’t going to change my habits much. With one exception.

    The once or twice a year I go into the Freshmart for packaged goods or dairy will likely now be spent in the Loblaws.

    Just like I swing into the Metro by St. Lawrence AFTER I do my shopping there to get what the market didn’t have, or was overcharging for.

    The reality is that the appearance of Longos stores throughout the core have curbed my market (both Kensington and St. Lawrence) trips more than any of the big stores, and I imagine Sobey’s appearances in other parts of the city have a similar effect for others. The convenience factor, especially in the winter, makes the markup worth it to me.

    Loblaws isn’t selling vintage clothes, nor will it have a variety of restaurants, a boutique kitchen/cookbook store, a mini-mall of knickknacks, or 37 coffee shops. Also, Kensington shoppers aren’t they type to say “oh! A Loblaws! Just what this neighbourhood was missing.” The Loblaws will draw business from other Loblaws and Metros more than Kensington. This isn’t some exciting new brand that will be a revelation to the locals.

    Now, if a Trader Joe’s opened up…

  • Doug Earl

    Exactly. If you don’t like the Loblaws going in on College St, the best
    thing by far you can do is to shop in Kensington Market. This will
    have a far more beneficial effect on the businesses there than
    advocating for a law that will prevent supermarkets from locating near
    small businesses that people feel might be at risk from competition.

  • Doug Earl

    I have faith Kensington Market will easily withstand this competition. But I could be convinced otherwise if someone were to collect empirical data before and after that shows Loblaws had a big detrimental impact. Is anyone doing that? Or are we just going to go on anecdotes and, the next time a shop closes in Kensington, point fingers at the Loblaws without evidence to back up the claim?