Sarnia, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1924-2018

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Andrew T.
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Sarnia, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1924-2018

Post by Andrew T. » 05 Sep 2018 21:16

Great news, everyone! I spent a few hours in Sarnia today, both visiting and researching the city. I got a little something out of it:

Sarnia, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1924-2018

As it turns out, Sarnia was a far easier city to research than London. The local public library had copies of city directories back to the turn of the century in paper form, so I didn't need to wrestle with microfilm. All of Sarnia's 1970s to 1990s directories were also published by Polk, not Vernon, so I didn't have to cope with the chronically-missing classified listings for which Vernon's Ontario directories are known.

Its grocery history is also on the interesting side. Unsurprisingly, Dominion was the first chain to enter Sarnia, doing so in the first half of the 1920s. Loblaws and A&P emerged in the following decade. Unlike in US cities, though, A&P never blanketed Sarnia with small neighbourhood stores...and both A&P and Loblaws sufficed with a single Sarnia store apiece until the 1960s. A local player called M&P topped the other chains in store count in the 1930s, but didn't survive the 1940s. Another local name, Walker Bros., had a retail presence from the 1930s to the 1960s, and was listed both as a grocer and as a department store.

There were also surprises. The biggest of these was that Dominion appeared to exit Sarnia entirely through the duration of the 1940s: No Dominion stores are listed in either the 1941 or 1945 directories (even in the alphabetical section), and when the chain re-emerged in 1952, it was in a location different from the one it had operated from more than a decade earlier. Loblaws also exited the market under their own name in the late 1980s, later re-emerging under the Valu-Mart, Zehrs, and Real Canadian Superstore brands.
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

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Re: Sarnia, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1924-2018

Post by Groceteria » 05 Sep 2018 21:51

Excellent. I was thinking of circling through Sarnia on my fall road trip. If it’s worth seeing, I may. Looking forward to the list.

Dominion seems to have made strange withdrawals (with subsequent returns) from several cities in the 1940s and 1950s. I think there must’ve been some sort of identity crisis going on. When I have time and motivation, I may dig through the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail archives to see if I can dig anything up.

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Re: Sarnia, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1924-2018

Post by Andrew T. » 07 Sep 2018 11:10

Ready for some pictures? Well, here they come.
metro.jpg
This is 1375 London Road, which was built as a Steinberg-owned Miracle Food Mart in the early 1970s. As with the rest of the Miracle Food Mart division, this store was transferred to A&P at the dawn of the 1990s and has done business since under the A&P, A&P Super Fresh, and Metro names.

I'm trying to figure out how much of the building facade is original. The box-like front for the sign probably isn't, but the arches might be.
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

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Re: Sarnia, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1924-2018

Post by Andrew T. » 07 Sep 2018 11:18

metro2.jpg
Here is 560 Exmouth Street, which is another Metro store with a long history. A Dominion opened on this site in the mid-1950s, later operating under the A&P, A&P Super Fresh, and Metro names. The aerial image suggests the store has been expanded to 3/2 of its original footprint. Even so, I'm not totally convinced this is the same building that opened in the 1950s...
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

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Andrew T.
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Re: Sarnia, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1924-2018

Post by Andrew T. » 07 Sep 2018 11:21

sdm.jpg
Another one of Dominion's bygone stores in Sarnia was located at 260 Indian Road, and it operated from the 1960s until the 1985 A&P sale. The building still stands; unfortunately, Shoppers Drug Mart has slathered over it with one of their generic facades.
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

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Andrew T.
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Re: Sarnia, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1924-2018

Post by Andrew T. » 07 Sep 2018 11:24

loblaws2.jpg
This small storefront at 186 North Christina Street was the home of the first Loblaws store in Sarnia, operating from 1930 (or earlier) until just barely after WWII.
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

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Andrew T.
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Re: Sarnia, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1924-2018

Post by Andrew T. » 07 Sep 2018 11:30

loblaws1.jpg
By 1952, Loblaws had moved down the street to this larger building at 106 North Christina Street, now subsumed with several adjacent buildings into an indoor flea market. This store remained open until the early 1970s, when Loblaws was waist-deep in crisis and shuttered scores upon scores of obsolete and unprofitable stores.
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

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Andrew T.
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Re: Sarnia, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1924-2018

Post by Andrew T. » 07 Sep 2018 11:35

loblaws3.jpg
The third Loblaws store in Sarnia was also the chain's first shopping-centre location: 836 Colborne Road. It opened circa 1960, and closed in the early 1980s. Today the building has been subdivided, but it still stands in substantially original condition.

This was arguably the most interesting store of all the sites I photographed. Unfortunately for me, it faced east on an afternoon with clear skies, and it backed into the sun.
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull


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Andrew T.
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Re: Sarnia, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1924-2018

Post by Andrew T. » 07 Sep 2018 22:14

Groceteria wrote:
07 Sep 2018 21:52
Added to the site and mapped:

http://www.groceteria.com/place/ontario/sarnia/
Great!
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

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