Raiders of the last Zellers
Archive 2013 Oct 22, 2013 Clay Neddow
At its peak less than 15 years ago, the Zellers chain of department stores had 350 outlets across Canada. Zellers, founded in 1931, was an almost iconic brand and, in many ways, a precursor to the Wal-Mart and Target chains.
In 2012 and 2013, most of its stores were purchased and converted into to Target and Wal-Mart stores. Only three of the 350 Zellers remain in Canada, with one in Ontario.
What many Toronto residents do not know, however, is that this last Zellers in Ontario is within the city limits – at the corner of Kipling Avenue and the Queensway, just a few kilometres north of the Humber College Lakeshore campus.
The store is missing the newly renovated grand entrance of the locations that have been converted to Targets. It also stocks a completely different range of merchandise than the chain with which it shares its branding.
The store mostly contains furniture overstock from Home Outfitters and clothing overstock from Hudson’s Bay (until recently known as just ‘The Bay’).
Its shelving and roof tiles, however, looks to be vintage Zellers. Parts are an off-yellow colour that clearly was once white. The tiling on the floor also brings to mind the essence of a mid-1990’s department store.
However, don’t judge this store by its appearance. It has many great bargains in the vein of other overstock outlets such as Winners and Marshall’s.
According to Tiffany Bourre, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s senior manager of external communications, “The Queensway location was selected to stay open based on opportunities in the market.”
In terms of product quality, it’s not quite the selection of oddities one might hope to find in an outlet of this kind. Bourre describes the merchandise as “fashion apparel and a refined home product offering.”
Another omission from the store for nostalgic shoppers may be the brand’s mascot, Zeddy the Bear. The 25-year old mascot was given to Camp Trillium in a contest last year.
On the southeast corner of Lake Shore Boulevard and Islington Avenue is home to another last-of-it’s-kind retailer, BiWay, a bargain retail chain that folded in the early 2000s.