Back in the mid 1990s when I was launching some of the first loft conversions and mid-rise condominiums in the central west end, downtown dwellers had all the privileges of a city centre life except when it came to getting groceries. Beyond the small corner bodega, Shopper's Drug Mart, or local gas station, city residents often had to cab it to the larger grocers down on Queens Quay or north to College Street to stock up on provisions.
Fortunately, with the literal explosion of downtown condominium development over the past 20 years, food retailers are the newest markers of status and convenience, providing easier access and greater selection to a population who have embraced our city centre neighbourhoods as their own place to call home.
And with good reason.
Cuz when you're hungry, who wants to shop in a gas station?
Today a number of notable grocers have emerged in the core, fitting themselves into already dense downtown blocks. These once missing pieces in the urban amenity puzzle aren’t just about food supply though. They are experiential and incredibly intuitive in terms of supporting lifestyle. That means having onsite dining, take away with fabulous dishes and having excellent options in terms of organic and speciality foods.
Some urban food retailers have opened stores with enormous spaces, like the ones I wrote about recently in “Yorkville’s Whole Foods Market Promotes Healthy & Responsible Lifestyle” and “Chef Mark McEwan Opens Gourmet ‘Grocerant’ At Yonge and Bloor”.
Expansive retail spaces in urban settings aren’t always possible, so some grocers have had to be creative with their use of space, which only adds to the quirky and cool experience of shopping there. This article from the Globe and Mail “Urban Grocery Stores Squeezing Into Tight Spaces” gives the example of the opening of the latest location of Organic Garage in Liberty Village, where a 13,000 sq. ft. retail space has made clever use of a basement of a 100-year old brick and beam building. According to the article, this is very much the trend for smaller food retailers and larger chains as well, looking to mixed use buildings and other shared space to house their stores.
Image courtesy of Organic Garage Instagram
Urban groceries tend to focus more on the immediate area, target-market wise, while suburban retailers tend to focus on drawing from several kilometers away.
Look at Toronto’s well-known chain, Longos, that developed a retail chain within a chain: The Market. It caters to urbanites with a good selection of organic offerings, take-away meals and support for entertaining. What’s more is they opened these markets within very close proximity to the subway in order to support the pedestrian, urban lifestyle.
Given the growth of urban neighbourhoods, and the appetite (pardon the pun) for food retailers, many new grocery stores have appeared, from speciality food emporiums to larger retail chains, with a uniquely urban vibe, to help them fit in to the ‘hood, so to speak.
Image courtesy of CanadianGrocer
One such food emporium is The Independent City Market, located at King and Shaw. Part of the Loblaws chain, this large grocery store isn’t just another big box grocer. It has many of the in-store offerings that urbanites expect, like a good selection of organic foods.
If you don't have the time to stir up some culinary magic in your kitchen, they have you covered! Catering to the on-the-go young professional, Independent City Market offers a huge selection of freshly prepared meals, including salads, sandwiches, entrees, and sushi! Whether you're grabbing a last-minute bite or restocking your kitchen cupboards, it's always a worthwhile visit.
Shoppers also benefit from the same services that suburban shoppers have with the Loblaws chains, like PC Express online shopping. It’s also a convenient one stop shop, as beyond food, there are a host of pharmacy and home items for sale as well.
The cornerstone of a healthy and diverse diet (not to mention a successful dinner party) is a solid selection of unique and reliable fresh ingredients. All grocers are not created equal, so be sure to stop by Independent City Market and explore - you won't leave hungry!
Image courtesy of Independent City Market
OPEN Every Day 10:00AM to 7:00PM
1022 King Street West
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