“We support our neighbours”: Shoppers and business owners talk about Kensington Market’s new Loblaws

“We support our neighbours”: Shoppers and business owners talk about Kensington Market’s new Loblaws

Last week, Kensington Market’s long-awaited Loblaws opened on the second floor of a 15-storey condo tower at College Street and Augusta Avenue, the former site of a Zen Buddhist temple. At 20,000 square feet, the “Independent City Market” (so called because it’s owned by a franchisee) is much smaller than other Loblaws locations, but that hasn’t stopped the community from getting riled up. Neighbourhood activists have long predicted that a supermarket would drive Kensington’s small grocers out of business, ending its century-long run as an eclectic, immigrant district. We spoke with business owners and Loblaws shoppers about what’s next for the area.


Chan Kwok Chi

56, Oxford Fruit employee

“I think Loblaws will have an impact on Kensington Market, but only in the winter when people would prefer to do their grocery shopping in one stop. Consumers will appreciate the convenience of Loblaws. Still, I think business for us will be just fine in the summer, especially on Pedestrian Sundays, when the street is closed and people enjoy walking around. I never go to Loblaws to buy stuff—everything there is more expensive.”


Jason Atkinson

32, pricing analyst from St. Clair West and Bathurst; Loblaws shopper

“I think Loblaws is only going to pull more traffic into Kensington Market. I don’t see it competing with independent grocers. It’s only going to have a positive effect, because Kensington offers specialty food, not mainstream food. If I was going to bring cheese to someone’s house, I would much rather get it from Kensington, because their selection is better. I don’t think it’s fair for someone to say, ‘You can’t have a big supermarket so close to Kensington Market.’ That’s like telling Starbucks they can’t open near Tim Hortons. It’s a lot less busy here compared to the Loblaws near my home. I’ll keep coming here instead if it stays that way.”

What did you just buy from Loblaws? “A lot of chicken, and two packs of cottage cheese.”


Peter Sanagan

39, owner of Sanagan’s Meat Locker

“I think it’ll affect my shop a little in terms of customers who find that type of shopping convenient. Here, we pride ourselves on service and quality. Our regulars won’t turn around and shop at Loblaws. If anything, I think the new Loblaws will take business away from their other stores, because it’s a more convenient location. The proliferation of supermarkets makes stores like mine more interesting to shop at. The green grocers who are just scraping by might suffer.”


Sarah Hussein

22, student from Kensington Market; Loblaws shopper

“Kensington has always had its own character, and it always will. The kinds of things that I buy at Kensington are not what I would buy at Loblaws. But once the grocers in Kensington Market close at 6 p.m., I lose hope of finding things. Now I’ll come to Loblaws for last-minute items instead of going Longo’s. Their prices are ridiculous.”

What did you just buy from Loblaws? “Nectarines, macarons and their house bread.”


Jennifer Mooers

34, general manager of Hooked

“It’ll have a positive effect on Kensington. We hope they do well. We need a proper supermarket. Kensington Market is a specialty market, with its own kind of ecosystem. For myself, though, I’ve always preferred small grocers. If there’s something Hooked needs from Loblaws, we’ll get it from within Kensington instead, because we support our neighbours.”


Gabriel Hagan

20, student from Kensington Market; Loblaws shopper

“I don’t think it’ll affect Kensington Market much. It’s different. People who shop there don’t come to Loblaws. This is a hip neighbourhood, but we all have different preferences. I’ll be coming here from now on. I used to go to Metro.”

What did you just buy from Loblaws? “Tofu, vegetables, starfruit and granadilla. Oh, and magic-grow creatures. I’m putting the Brontosaurus one in the water when I get home.”


Hector Lopez

53, owner of Perola’s Supermarket

“Yeah, it’s going to affect business, because we’ll lose students as customers. This is a small family business and a big company is killing it. It’s negative all around. I never shop at supermarkets. Period. I’ve been to one in the last 10 years. I work in this area, so I buy everything from neighbours.”


Melissa Haughton

23, communications assistant from Chinatown; Loblaws shopper

“I think Loblaws might have an interesting effect on local businesses, because it closes later. While a lot of Kensington residents are adamant about not having a big-box business, I find myself in a pinch when grocers close at 6 p.m. So, I will shop at Loblaws due to the convenience factor, but I don’t think it will affect my main shopping. It’ll be split 70/30 between small grocers and Loblaws.”

What did you just buy from Loblaws? “Lean ground beef and ACE Bakery bread.”



52, production assistant from Kensington Market; Loblaws shopper

“You know what? I don’t think Loblaws will affect Kensington, because Kensington has its own customers who like to shop there. I’ll be coming here from now on. I like it. It’s clean, and easier to find things. I used to go to Loblaws on Queen.”

What did you just buy from Loblaws? “A cooked barbecue chicken.”


Martin Zimmerman

59, owner of Zimmerman’s Fairland

“My dilemma is that I had a car accident four years ago, which renders me unable to be in the store as much physically. My business has gone down dramatically since. So, Loblaws won’t make any difference to my already declining clientele. However, the meat and cheese department at the new Loblaws is big, so it will definitely affect Sanagan’s Meat Locker and Global Cheese in Kensington. I think Loblaws will run out of business when my family decides to put something major at College and Spadina, where I’ve owned seven buildings for the past 18 years. That’s 240 square feet of frontage—more than twice the amount that Loblaws on College currently has. In the meantime, I buy everything at my own store—and the things that I don’t carry, I will buy from my neighbours. I believe in supporting the community: the small independent guys, the people I grew up with.”