(Loblaws located at 585 Queen St W, Toronto ON, photo credit: Otherstream)
The small merchants of Kensington Market are about to come face to face with big business. Loblaws has signed a lease with development company Tribute Communities to open a Loblaws grocery store on the second floor of a condo building currently being constructed on the neighbourhood’s northern border.
Kensington merchants say the Loblaws could cripple the myriad of small food stores nearby.
“Everyone will tell you the same thing,” says Manny Viere of Global Cheese. “Everyone is against it.”
Although Viere says his business won’t be affected by the Loblaws as much as others, since Global Cheese is a specialty store, he worries for the produce stores.
“Advertising,” says Meyer Levy, who works at Castle Fruit on the intersection of Kensington Ave. and Balwin St. “It’s what the small guy cannot do.”
Levy says that large chain retail stores are dangerous to local business in Kensington because of the resources available to them. Advertisements and financial backing mean that large retailers don’t have to take the same risks that smaller businesses do.
Levy could rime off the growing number of competitors in the area.
“Within two, three hundred feet: Loblaws, Walmart, Sobey’s, NoFrills, Metro,” Levy says. “The government should control the licensing. They should support smaller stores.”
Others are concerned for the culture in Kensington. Houman Pearov, who was shopping at Kensington on a Sunday afternoon, says he appreciates the variety that Kensington Market offers.
“It’s definitely going to change it,” says Pearov. “There’s a sense of community. It’ll change the vibe.”
Manny Viere says the solution is to keep prices low and the quality of service high.
“A lot of places have been here for 20-30 years. We need to build bridges with our customers.”