The latest supermarket to open in the downtown core is a sleek, 48,000 square-foot megastore by Longo’s. The new spot is part of Maple Leaf Square—the spanking new sports-themed development beside the Air Canada Centre—and should make locals rejoice as their area, better known for tourists and expressways, takes one step closer to becoming a bona fide neighbourhood.
Like the other inner-city supermarkets that have recently opened or undergone a massive renovation—Fresh and Wild, McEwan, Metro, Sobey’s, Loblaws—this was a time consuming effort. Longo’s took five years to build a store with modern elements that are increasingly standard for supermarkets: sushi counters, pizza ovens, salad bars and a grab-and-go counter. Spokesperson Rosanne Longo tells us that the surge of these types of supermarkets coincides with Toronto’s condo boom.
“Consumers are looking for alternatives to fast food. They want something that’s quick but at the same time fresh and healthy,” she says, adding that this is the fifth downtown location for Longo’s (the others are much smaller). “We looked at the busy downtown Torontonians who often buy food two or three times a week rather than one big trip.”
Like many of Longo’s competitors, it’s trying to attract shoppers of all types: the busy condo dwellers buying a $10 ready-to-heat dinner for two, the traditional nuclear families buying in bulk and the Food Network addicts looking for gourmet sea salt, rare Pakistani mangos, Kobe beef and kopi luwak coffee ($44 for 80 grams or $11 a cup—all from Longo’s in-house coffee roaster). The market also claims to have the largest selection of cheese (300 varieties) under one roof in the city. On-site cheese masters help flustered customers with wine pairings.
In the back is an area dubbed “The Loft,” where Longo’s turns into more of a lounge than a supermarket. There’s a Starbucks, WiFi, cooking studio, a seating area, microwave, sinks, five flat-screen televisions, washrooms (a definite plus in supermarkets) and above all, a fully functioning bar called Corks that serves exclusively Ontario beer and wine.
The question now is how the food shopping landscape of downtown will finally shape up. With glistening supermarkets opening up all over—including a Loblaws and a Sobey’s both nearby—and gourmet provisioners like McEwan scouting downtown locations, the battle lines are still being drawn. If nothing else, it looks like a tasty war for Torontonians.
Longo’s Maple Leaf Square, 15 York St. (at Bremner Blvd.), 416-366-1717, longos.com.