New Loblaws At Maple Leaf Gardens: A Love Affair with Food.

New Loblaws store at Maple Leaf Gardens

There hasn’t been a line up at the Gardens for 10 years.  But there was today.  Maple Leaf Gardens is the heart and soul of many Torontonians and yet inside now sits a grocery store.

The launch of the new Loblaws in the heart of Toronto is clearly a stake in the ground to say “we love food”.   In fact, Loblaws screams it.   I must confess that I love grocery stores, big and small, everywhere on earth.  I’ve been known to sneak into grocery stores on my holidays just to look around—from Paris to Edinburgh, from Monaco to Auckland and from St. Petersburg to San Francisco.   And now in Toronto, I’ve seen the nicest grocery store I’ve ever seen.

From the turnaround in the 1980s, with Dave Nichol and the creation of the President’s Choice brand that enticed so many, Loblaws reached Beloved status, clearly ahead of any competitor in sight. Consumers admired Loblaws and the great things they were doing while competitors and vendors feared them.

The Beloved Loblaws brand of the 90s had fallen back to Like It, as everyone caught up. This new store is a stake in the ground that Loblaws can be loved again.

As Loblaws stumbled in the early 2000s, with mergers and internal politics, they became obsessed with beating Wal-Mart and started to look like Wal-Mart.   Before 2003, Loblaws and Westfair operated seperately.  With Wal-Mart getting stronger, the desire to be a Mass Merch was taking over.  They were no longer a grocery store and now clearly a Mass Merch store.  They launched glorious sized stores that they named “Real Canadian Super Store” which is about as generic of a name as you can get.  In fact, Wal-Mart calls theirs “Super Centre”–almost the same.   These mega sized stores are filled with cheaper versions of T-Fal pans and $15 blankets.   The Loblaws name was nowhere to be seen.  Why? Because of internal politics.    Competitors were catching up, Sobeys and Metro launched some pretty good copy cats.  Loblaws didn’t really do anything in a while.   And Loblaws was falling from Beloved back to Liked and it was now the same as the rest.  

Today, as I approached the new Loblaws store, the first thing I noticed was “Great Food” attached to the logo.  And once inside, that’s all I saw–Great Food.   I saw all the cupcakes, the cheeses and of course the Chocolate Mound where I bought some freshly carved slices of chocolate.

Chipping a piece of Chocolate from the Mound of Chocolate. Very fresh taste.

Everyone was making stuff:  freshly cooked chickens and freshly baked breads.  Rejoice in the love of food.  I kept saying “wow” at every turn.  The fresh bread, baked right before your eyes.   Most grocery stores say Fresh all the time, this one was showing it.

Loblaws took a giant step forward, a step back from liked towards beloved, helping to separate themselves from the competition.   And as I said many times in the 80s and 90s, “I can’t wait to see what Loblaws does next”.   Exciting.  

Here are some more photos of the New Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Wall of Cheese on display.

The most impressive signal of Fresh was that there must have been a hundred people in the process of making something.

First Line up at MLG since 1999.

Very beautiful lighting, feels European and Expensive

Vantage from above the fresh produce area.

Deli counter with fresh foods all around.

Old Seats from the Old Gardens. Golds were the best back then.

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4 thoughts on “New Loblaws At Maple Leaf Gardens: A Love Affair with Food.

  1. Very interesting post. Now I’m curious to know who would go to such a place, in terms of gender, income, education, etc.? would they be downtowners only? Torontonians/ GTA residents in general? what about tourists? could it become a new attraction for Toronto?

  2. Great example of a company that is willing to risk, willing to change, willing to innovate, willing to diversify. All true qualities of success! Those that are holding onto “the way we have always done things” will always be left behind by those that follow Loblaw’s innovative example.

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