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Openings

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Introducing: Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens, downtown’s enormous new food emporium

(Images: Kevin Naulls)

When a heritage building like Maple Leaf Gardens is renovated, there’s always a concern that whatever goes inside will gut the building’s soul, with, at best, a commemorative plaque to mark what used to be. Thankfully, Galen Weston and his Loblaws crew chose to retain the charm of the iconic arena, except that instead of stadium seating and the aroma of beer nuts, the impressively large space is now home to fresh bread (from Ace Bakery), a café (with the original Gardens gold seats), a wide selection of organic produce (fans of Portlandia will be pleased to know that images of the farmers responsible abound), a sushi bar, an LCBO, a walk-in clinic, a Joe Fresh, a wall of cheese (seriously, a whole wall), a wall of cupcakes (seriously, a whole wall) and a wall of aging meat (yes, a whole wall). That’s just the tip of the chocolate-by-the-chunk iceberg (of which there is one—it weighs 250 pounds and required a mechanical lift to drop into place). Tour the brand new grocery mega-store in a gallery after the jump.

Before we were admitted to the supermarket-cum-coliseum for the grand opening, Weston gave a speech, followed by a baguette-cutting ceremony (the purpose-baked Ace baguette was a good five feet long). We entered and hung a left to find a red-subway-tiled café selling bagels (69 cents each), espresso-based drinks ($1.79–$3.19) and house-made gelato ($2.99–$10.99). Much of the prepared food in the store, from stocks and soups to baked goods, is made in-house by executive chef Mark Russell and his team of nine Red Seal chefs. According to senior VP André Fortier, who was responsible for the “concept rollout,” there will be no day-old goods at this location (leftovers will be donated to Second Harvest).

There’s a lot to see and touch, but some of the most appealing items in-store right now include Malpeque oysters ($1.20 each), live market lobsters ($9.99), dry-aged Wagyu strip loin steaks ($88.16 per kilogram), a Cropwell Bishop Stilton ($4.59 per 100 grams) and a dried mushroom bar that’s home to dried morels ($113.39 per pound), black trumpets ($31.75 per pound) and porcinis ($45.36 per pound). We even found a pretty decent-looking PC Santoku knife ($22) in the home section and some beautiful Phalaenopsis orchids ($14.99), bred in the Niagara Peninsula, in the large flower shop. We do warn that shoppers should heed the old adage “never shop hungry” at this place, lest they find themselves needing to be pried off the gigantic cheese wall (or the 12-foot cupcake wall).

Our Introducing series explores newly opened restaurants, bars and shops throughout the GTA
This is not a review.
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  • mike

    This is really amazing. I went for the store opening today and was really amazed by the crowd. I also saw couple of other valuable stores like Primacy health clinics (www.health-local.com ) to add value.

  • Mad as hello

    Yet another example of just how facile Torontonians are. Fawning over a grocery store – and a Loblaws no less. Has anyone actually seen the crowd that hangs around at College and Yonge?

  • College, Young, Smarter and Richer Than You

    @Mad as hello,

    Perhaps you’re unaware of what a densely populated, urban neighborhood looks like; there are indeed crowds at the corners, waiting for public transportation and to cross the streets at the lights.

    Some of those in the crowd, in fact a lot of those in the crowd, live in one of the numerous condo buildings ringing the area around Loblaws, where cost ranges from $500, and climbs to over $1000, per square foot.

    Some of these residents are Ryerson students: a few typically “starving”, but a great many are children of wealthy Korean, and Chinese families. These kids, some of who you may have spotted at the intersection, drive BMWs and Mercedes, live in $600,000 one bedroom condos being paid for by someone else, have brightly colored hair and may be indistinguishable from the other downtown types on the corner.

    Others like the Creative Class. You know, the ones in advertising, publishing, the magazine business, technology. Beware however, before you make any assumptions about them based on their proximity to a downtown street corner; chances are these are the ones who can afford a spare bedroom to house their electronics, and their collection of sneakers. The million dollar apartments in the area? Probably owned by them.

    And let’s now forget about the young & hungry Bay Street financial types. It may come as a bit of a shock to you, but they too can sometimes be seen, in their off hours, wearing sweats, and carrying bags, near downtown street corners. No doubt on their way to their 1.5 to 2 million dollar townhouses, or penthouses.

    Yes, Mad as hello, all you’ve managed to illustrate with your comment is your own ignorance, and cultural bias. I’d have you over for dinner, to my million dollar view of the lake, the skyline, and yes even the corner, but truth is I couldn’t be bothered. If I’m going to go through the hassle of visiting my neighborhood Loblaws, and cooking up a feast, I’d surely invite someone cooler than you.

  • CuliNerd

    BAMMMM @College,Young,SmarterandRicherThanYou that was just proper. Any time I will come over for dinner, hahaha

  • bob loblaw

    Went yesterday. Crazy busy but loved it. Shared some grey season’s tix at the Gardens way back when so loved going into the old building again. Loved the red dot where centre ice was. Peeps were having their pics taken standing on it. I applaud the foresight of all who saved and re-purposed this building.

  • Local Resident

    For months now, the Church/Carlton/Wood/Alexander neighbourhood have had to put up with noise, dust, sidewalk closures, bad-mannered cops & construction workers; now we note the lines of delivery vehicles along Church north of Wood, idling whilst awaiting their turn to enter the loading bay on Wood, where, 24/7, they will emit disturbing beeps on reversing.

    The whole MLG “restoration” project has been a nightmare for residents. I, for one, will not reward bad neighbourliness with my business, nor will I support Sheldon Levy’s ambition & megalomania with my money. Enough, already

  • Havingalook2

    I have been twice, opening day and the following Friday. I think it is grand, welcomed, needed,and a great addition. People get to vote with their dollars and no doubt the store will be supported. Full marks to Loblaws, while there was a queue to get in, there sure wasn’t one of buyers to purchase Maple Leaf Gardens and turn it into something like this. It sat empty for over a decade and now it is come to life. I certainly can appreciate how disruptive the construction must have been, alas that is progress. And I can only imagine what it was like years ago when hockey games were over! Anyway, good one Loblaws, full marks – I for one will love going to your store. In fact, going today – it now a destination for me to meet friends at! Cheers

  • WalterPO

    We should be commending Loblaws for opening a grocery story for the potential shoppers from Allan Gardens, the revitalized Regent Park and the other denizens of the area who were displaced when the $1,000,000 condos were built. Hopefully the store will have a “day old” section…

  • jaydee

    @WalterPO: Read the story?” There will be no day-old goods at this location (leftovers will be donated to Second Harvest)”

  • The writer

    @by College, Young, Smarter and Richer Than You

    Nice of you to point out the class differences of Toronto’s priviledged and the entitled.

    Was that an intelligent opinion you expressed? No, that was your ego struggling to assert itself. Try again.

  • superTO

    Wow, we have rich people in this neighborhood bragging about their discrete wealth.

    I’m living here now, but am thinking of moving simply for this reason. Need to be around real people. Just don’t dig young and rich braggadacio.

  • @super

    give it up, TOronto is just that way in these parts.

  • Helkie

    Personally, I am glad to have this new store across the road from where I live. I won’t be doing all of my shopping there, as our family is not exactly “rich”, with 5 kids living at home. However, having that convenience right across the street from us will make life a bit easier and will save us some time with grocery shopping (which usually takes us hours on weekends, as we visit various different stores for their weekly “specials”). Whatever inconvenience we had in the neighbourhood due to construction near MLG was NOTHING compared to other inconveniences we have experienced in recent years. The most memorable one was several years ago, when the streetcar tracks and underground water pipes were being replaced around the same time. Now THAT was a major disruption, and it lasted for a long time, but that, too, needed to be done (did any of you see the old corroded pipes that were bringing in our drinking water?). Twenty or so years ago, when our family first moved into this neighbourhood, there were no grocery stores within easy walking distance. Now, at least we have some choice: the new Loblaws at MLG, a Metro and Sobeys in College Park, another Metro at the old Sears building, a new Bulk Barn soon to open on Carlton, near Yonge Street. Despite the plethora of grocery stores in the ‘hood, my husband and I will still be driving or biking to further away stores that have cheaper prices for our “staples”.
    As for the Loblaws at MLG, things seem to have calmed down there somewhat. I have visited the store after work, every evening for the last three days, and found it easy to find parking, and did not find any lineups at the checkout counters. Whew! However, I am not sure how well the store will do, with so many chefs/employees on the job, and not enough people around to ingest the food that’s on display there. If the “leftovers” from that Loblaws are going to homeless shelters, the not-so-rich may end up with some interesting meals.
    Tomorrow, I’ll be hitting the online flyers again, to see what’s on “sale” and where.

  • College, Young, Smarter and Richer Than You

    @ The writer

    My comments were indeed fed by ego. With a name such as the one I chose, I make no claims otherwise. As for the itelligence of my opinion, it wasn’t one. Instead, I was making a point, something a little different from an opinion; one your own delicate ego may have gotten in the way of understanding. Let me spell it out for you:

    The neighborhood Loblaws occupies is made up of many and varied people. To turn one’s nose up at the “crowd that hangs around at College and Yonge”, as Mad as hello did, deserves a smackdown.

    Not so difficult to understand, is it? I promise my point was not directed towards you, and if I’d had Mad as hello’s personal email address, I would have made him squirm privately. Do take a deep breath and repeat after me, “I’m ok. I count for something”.

    @superTO

    See above.

  • MDHolek

    But did you see the new WALK-IN CLINIC over beside the Pharmacy?? It’s open 7 days a week. A much needed service in this area. Currently little to no wait times! Drop by for a FLU shot and register to be added as a patient.

  • Kevin

    I recently visited the new store and was amazed with how large it is. It is also great to see that they are donating all the day old food to Second Harvest, what a fantastic Idea! Second Harvest is a terrific organization visit them online at http://www.secondharvest.ca. Also I found a terrific website where a company is trying to raise $3,000 for Second Harvest. When you Like a Tattoo they will donate 1 dollar. http://www.leaveyourmark2011.com

  • mike

    I heard there were a few ex Leaf players there today. I wonder if they’ll have an arrangement with the Leafs to hold promotional events. It’d be great to have some Leaf memorabilia displayed there at the store, bakery and walk-in clinic(www.health-local.com).

  • comment

    hey Kevin and Mike are both advertising trolls!

 

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