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Loblaws set to open in Kensington Market

Posted by Derek Flack / January 28, 2014

Loblaws KensingtonLoblaws is on its way to Kensington, or, more accurately, to College St. just north of the Market. Despite a hefty dose of neighbourhood protest and general disapproval of the idea, the chain grocery store is due to arrive on the site that formerly housed the Zen Buddhist Temple as part of a 15-storey development from Tribute, which will also feature other, as yet to be disclosed retail. At an estimated 20,000 square feet, the store won't be huge by Loblaws standards, but it'll be big enough to test out concerns that big retail will have a negative impact on the Market's independent shops.

So how will Kensington fare once this major grocery store opens so close by? I'll go on the record as saying that I suspect not much will change. Yes, it's big news, and entirely understandable that neighbourhood business owners and residents show concern over the store's pending arrival, but doom and gloom narratives regarding the encroachment of chain retail in the area surrounding the Market imply that the neighbourhood's retail viability is dangerously tenuous.

I don't think that's true. Kensington Market, as whole, offers a different product than Loblaws, even as you can buy bread, meat and cheese at both. Corporations like to spend a lot on what's called brand identity, some set of characteristics that will foster customer loyalty. This, as it happens, is precisely what Kensington already has without anyone having to invent it. While the Market serves nearby residents, it's also a place that people choose to shop, and that's not going to change with the arrival of Loblaws on College.

What do you think? Will the arrival of Loblaws harm Kensington Market?

Discussion

63 Comments

Deric / January 28, 2014 at 09:36 am
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Good article - and I agree.

I love Kensington, and I love Loblaws, but for different reasons. If people want to go to Loblaws, they'll already go - it's not like it's an hour away. It's a short streetcar ride over to Yonge/College, not to mention the one just down at Queen (West of Spadina).

My guess? the buildup around Kensington will actually revitalize the area.
ButtonsTheMonkey / January 28, 2014 at 09:42 am
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I think the area would have been better off with a Walmart. The people that would go to a Walmart are probably not the same people that would go to Kensington Market to start with. Loblaws is more likely to have the food products that would compete with Kensington Market shops. They tend to tailor their items to appeal to the area, unlike Walmart that has the same items in which ever store you go to and it's more about "value" vs "quality".

But really there's probably not much they can put in the spot that will not drive some sort of business away from some other shops/services in that area. All you can do is roll with the punches, this is a city and it will grow as a city does.
Lucia / January 28, 2014 at 09:44 am
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I also think that the Market will not have to suffer. I live in Liberty Village and CHOOSE to do my weekly shopping in Kensington because I love supporting the small shops, plus I like the quality of the produce. On the other hand, Loblaws has super high mark-up and they do not carry enough local and/or organic produce. The fact that they will open so close to the Market will definitely NOT deter me from continuing to shop there. Plus the Market is special because of the human factor. The shop owners where I usually get my produce from already know me and I love chatting with them.
Dogma / January 28, 2014 at 09:45 am
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Of course it will hurt Kensington Market. The question is how much.

People like to talk loyalty, but the reality is that if you're in Loblaws buying one thing it's pretty easy to pick up some other things that you might previously might have stopped at a specialty shop to get.

That's not to say every small store in the Market will close. A few probably will. A few more will feel the financial pinch. Loblaws will thrive.
JoeCarterTO / January 28, 2014 at 09:51 am
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I want to agree with the author but I think, like most residents of the market, I'm nervous about this creeping in. I'm optimistic that the community Kensington has created can resist this but I'm wary of what lies ahead.
lister / January 28, 2014 at 09:53 am
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The world didn't come to an end when Loblaws opened at Queen & Portland. It's not going to come to an end at that College site. It is a little strange how close it'll be to the existing store. Anyways, I think the only stores possibly hurt in Kensington Market are the crappy ones. The newer, higher end ones should have nothing to fear. One of the things I've hoped to have happen in Kensington is an upgrade on the stores there. Maybe this new Loblaws store will accelerate that.

I wish people would stop saying the Walmart is possibly opening in, at or near Kensington Market. In the grand galactic scale of things, sure, the Kromer Radio site is next door, but come on, it's not that close.
Chuckie / January 28, 2014 at 09:53 am
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I agree that it will hurt the market. Many people shop choose to shop where 1. things are cheaper and 2. where they can get everything they need faster.

If Loblaws can deliver one - or especially both – of these things, of course people will go there instead.

Big retailers have been killing markets for the last 50 years and there are very few left. This is what makes Kensington so special ... and is exactly what makes it vulnerable.
Michael / January 28, 2014 at 09:54 am
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You're so right.

Kensington Market serves those who don't live in the area. Which means those who are already served by places like Loblaws (and Walmart for that matter) go to Kensington specifically.

Conversely, people who live in Kensington do shop elsewhere (gasp!) in places such as Loblaws (gasp! gasp!). They just currently have to make the trek.



Sandy / January 28, 2014 at 09:54 am
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It will definitely impact Kensington, since sometimes it's just easier to shop in a single large store. I live close to the Queen/Bathurst Loblaws, and I definitely go to Kensington less than before it opened, especially in the winter. I still prefer Kensington for the atmosphere and the selection, but Loblaws is more convenient.
Alex / January 28, 2014 at 09:57 am
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Loblaws can't put small business out of business. Only the people can. If they choose not to shop at the small business' anymore than that will happen. Consumers make the final decision on all business' on whether they survive or not.
Alex replying to a comment from Dogma / January 28, 2014 at 09:58 am
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True. The consumer (the same ones who are complaining) will be the ones to decide the fate of Kensington business'
iSkyscraper / January 28, 2014 at 10:01 am
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No supermarket is a bad supermarket.

Many cities suffer because they can't get supermarkets to locate downtown, which then halts further redevelopment. (Detroit recently got its first supermarket within city limits, while even normal cities rarely have more than a few downtown).

So I can't really see the evil in this. The more supermarkets in downtown Toronto, the better, regardless of brand. Kensington will adapt.
Tara / January 28, 2014 at 10:02 am
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As some one who's lived right across from Kensington for the last five years, I don't think this will hit the majority of the market that hard. I go to Kensington and other green grocers because it's better quality and almost always cheaper than stores like Metro and Loblaws. With the new Loblaws, hopefully I now won't have to to make the 30 minute round trip to the Metro on Bloor for pantry items or if it's after 6/7 pm.
pedro / January 28, 2014 at 10:11 am
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Yes and now pricing the chicken with price of pork turkish and lam why so much bigger money not buying grandma shopping because greediness not no faces just black yello white brown beige is not for the people as is for bigg spending man! I do one in the street of this shop for him to slip in! No loblaw
Andrea / January 28, 2014 at 10:15 am
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I agree with Flack here. Not only does Kensington have a loyal customer base, but as a whole Kensington offers a different and more varied array of goods and services. I'm not going to take a streetcar to that area to buy some packaged breaded fish at Loblaws, but I will make the journey for Fresco's. I can see the fruit markets and maybe Zimmerman's having some competition but these places have culture and personality. You can still buy coffee in Kensington even if there is a second cup at Augusta and College.
Dina / January 28, 2014 at 10:24 am
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I HATE THIS COMPANY!!!!!
ES / January 28, 2014 at 10:36 am
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I tend to agree. Here's a case study which proves it. When Loblaws came in at Christie and Dupont everyone predicted the end of Fiesta Farms...Loblaws would OBVIOUSLY swallow fiesta by most people's predictions. They were wrong. Today I sometimes avoid Fiesta because it's so packed. Fiesta adapted...providing better produce and more local, organic and specialized food. As too will some of the local businesses in Kensington need to adapt. I love Kensington. It's a destination. I think we will find as someone said before that an uplifting of the area will bring more people to Kensington. Everyone out there who fought so hard because they love Kensington is displaying a lack of faith. Keep supporting the businesses...that will keep them alive.
jameson / January 28, 2014 at 10:41 am
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considering how much growth is planned for Alexandra Park's redevelopment (very much Regent Park like in density), there's more than enough to justify one small little Loblaws

Now, with the Wal-Mart destined too...

That's a bit more interesting.
What gives.. / January 28, 2014 at 10:44 am
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Its very simple.

You either want to shop in Kensington or you dont.

If having a Loblaws across the street somehow changes the way you shop, then you never really cared if Kensington survived or not.


Tom / January 28, 2014 at 10:55 am
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The Market is the Market, it doesn't get to determine what goes happens on College st.

Can those of us on College start making our demands to clean up the Market, get the rats out, remove that damn car with the plants growing in it.
Sarah / January 28, 2014 at 11:09 am
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LEST WE FORGET THAT THE MARKET is an experience that Loblaws cannot duplicate. I've gone to the market many times for the experience and have never bought groceries there. I have bought other things, and enjoyed the restaurants and bars BUT the market is more than just groceries. IF it was just about groceries than they shouldn't complain when I can walk out of the market onto Spadina and buy groceries there.
DL / January 28, 2014 at 11:12 am
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If independent vendors want to protect their businesses from any potential suffering caused by bigger retailers, make your businesses better. Also, renovate. Just because you're in Kensington doesn't mean your decorum needs to look 35 years old.
Rc / January 28, 2014 at 11:41 am
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I welcome it; the closest Supermarket it the horribly overpriced Metro that never has enough cashiers (how is it they have 3 cashiers during rush hour but the Carlton Loblaws has TWENTY SIX cahsiers?!) and has a poor selection of products.
I go to Kensington market for specialty products that a Loblaws wouldn't have, not for the bulk of my groceries; for that I try to go to Chinatown or Dufferin mall. And considering how many of the organic stores were either out of stock or expired for what I was looking for (Cassia Cinnamon....), hopefully it'll cause them to step up their game. One place had cinnamon that expired in October 2013....
Soren / January 28, 2014 at 11:45 am
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Whoever wants to pay 5x more for their groceries can shop at the corporate grocery chain.
Alex / January 28, 2014 at 11:48 am
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Since it comes with a condo and a ton of new residents, I doubt it would kill the market. If anything this new condo just provides more customers for kensington stores.
get real / January 28, 2014 at 12:09 pm
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Food consumers are driven by cost, even those who live in downtown condos. As many have said above, Loblaw has significantly higher prices on most fresh food items.

The two can coexist as I doubt the fruit and veggie markets quality meat, fish, and cheese purveyors will be impacted. Loblaw might become the destination for some Candy Cane Crackle ice cream for dessert but they won't destroy the market.
Spike / January 28, 2014 at 12:19 pm
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Hello Loblaws, goodbye Kensington.
Kat / January 28, 2014 at 12:34 pm
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I could throw a snowball from my apartment and hit the Queen St. Loblaws, but I still shop in Kensington at least every other week. The spice/bulk shops, coffee shops, specialty cheese markets, bakeries and butchers all offer something that Loblaws can't. I think that much is obvious? The produce from the couple of fruit shops already had price competition from the supermarkets on Spadina and are still there....I don't think this Loblaws will change much at all, and may even encourage adaptation into more interesting niches.
Rick / January 28, 2014 at 12:36 pm
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How about the new jobs and opportunity for the area?
Loblaws pays a decent wage and offers quality product.
Haters gonna hate no matter what - you cant please fools.
yes / January 28, 2014 at 12:59 pm
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Well at least you can still buy your crappy used hippy clothes in the Market.

Thankfully thats something Loblaws wont stock.
Time / January 28, 2014 at 01:08 pm
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I wouldn't consider College Street to be part of Kensington Market. Sounds like a tempest in a teacup.
Robert / January 28, 2014 at 01:11 pm
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restaurants / bars driving up rents have more to do with killing the Market than these big box stores.
Fig replying to a comment from Deric / January 28, 2014 at 01:11 pm
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Good article Derek - and I agree with Deric. I love both places for different reasons and I think it will have a positive effect on the area.
Live Chickens? / January 28, 2014 at 01:21 pm
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I stopped shopping at Kensington when they did away with livechickens. Will Loblaws carry live chickens? Hope so!
Michelle / January 28, 2014 at 03:17 pm
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Yeah, it'll be ok. I get it. I don't really want a Loblaws there either, but it's not going to change anything. The people who shop in the market are not Loblaws shoppers and aren't suddenly going to change. It might actually get a little more foot traffic down into the market if people are suddenly compelled to get off the streetcar there on College and take a look around because they see a Loblaws. Even that Rexall there seems to be having a positive effect on the market.
shortD / January 28, 2014 at 03:19 pm
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Great article, having lived in the market for a year plus there is plenty of positives to say, but one thing is for certain times they are a changing. Although, I did as much shopping as I could in the market, trying to get my shopping to fit my work schedule always proved tenuous. With most shops closing at 6 - 7 pm, I still found myself wandering to the Loblaws at Queen and Portland. I don't really see how this will cause a drastic enough impact. The encroachment on available retail spaces being sold off within the market, can raise eyebrows though, that's for sure.
Aunty American / January 28, 2014 at 03:39 pm
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Loblaws is owned by Weston, who recently bought out Shoppers Drug Mart, so they could compete with the Walmarts and Targets.

Kensington market is naturally on the road to extinction b/c human nature is to first fight for the local vendor, then abandon them for the large-retailer, who will offer similar goods at competitive prices. Any vendor in Kensington would be smart to leave now and setup shop someplace else or online.
Todd Toronto / January 28, 2014 at 04:06 pm
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Not one mention of the Loblaw's near St. Lawrence Market? A decade ago, they said that store would destroy the (South Market.

I agree with the consensus. Everyone who goes to to Kensington Market or St. Lawrence Market or their local farmers market has access to a supermarket. They choose to go there anyway, and I doubt that will change.
Jason Kucherawy / January 28, 2014 at 05:10 pm
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If you all love Kensington Market so much, the best thing you can do is shop there more often. On the walking tours of Kensington Market I highlight the local businesses and support them. Shop, shop, shop. Support, support, support. Wishing Kensington Market stays the way it is won't make it happen, nor will commenting on this post. If Kensington Market "disappears" (which I don't think it will) it's because it wasn't supported and the businesses there didn't adapt to the inevitable change. It's the nature of neighbourhoods and the challenge of business to face inevitable change.

"Tolerance and integration have been vital to this cosmopolitan neighbourhood which is distinguished by constant renewal." - from the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board plaque in Kensington Market
Dan I. Mimico / January 28, 2014 at 06:15 pm
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For the people who oppose the new supermarket, STOP YOUR WHINING! If you don't like it then don't shop there. More savings for the rest of us.
Loper / January 28, 2014 at 07:03 pm
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I want taquitos
v79 / January 28, 2014 at 07:45 pm
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The quality specialty vendors in Kensington (Sanagan's, etc) have nothing to worry about. The filthy, run-down shops (which sadly make up a majority of the market)should have been boarded up long ago and are the only one's in danger here and would not be missed. They would not even be permitted to operate anywhere else in the city, but somehow the shanty town that is Kensington Market gets a free pass when it comes to sanitation. Even then, their demise is not certain. If the market can survive the southern Queen St. Loblaws and the large Chinese grocers a block east, this won't make too much of a difference either. The College/UofT area is still severely underserved for one-stop grocery shopping. Loblaws will only be a positive addition to the neighbourhood.
Caedes / January 28, 2014 at 07:52 pm
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I live near the market and do my grocery shopping in the market. My roommate on the other hand makes the trek down to Queen and Portland once a week to shop at Loblaws. Nuff said.
Eleanor / January 28, 2014 at 08:08 pm
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Do keep in mind that Chinatown produce is so much more cheaper than Loblaws produce. There is also a wider variety of things to pick... Although this is coming from a person who goes to both.
Sam replying to a comment from Dan I. Mimico / January 28, 2014 at 08:40 pm
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Savings at Loblaws?! Hahahaha
Cayla / January 28, 2014 at 08:41 pm
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Kensington already has so many produce shops. What's the point in adding a Loblaws? People love Kensington because it's supposed to be historical, local, and a community. How are we supposed to feel that when box stores are taking up the neighbourhood. If Loblaws comes in, who's to say that stores like Walmart, Shoppers Drug Mart, even Sears won't come in either. We let this slide and we let that slide and sooner or later Kensington market is longer any more significant than any other neighbourhood in Toronto. I don't go to Kensington to go to Loblaws.
JC / January 28, 2014 at 08:54 pm
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Kensington is a dump! a good grocery store not filled with rats is due in that area!..
v79 replying to a comment from Cayla / January 28, 2014 at 09:12 pm
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Cayla, first off, they're not moving into Kensington Market, just near it, in a spot that was previously a computer store. It's going from one retailer to another, not affecting KM in any way whatsoever, other than offering residents more choice and a better one-stop grocery option. As with the Walmart proposal on Bathurst, The Kensington NIMBYers are simply expanding their bitching horizons to include parts of the city that are in no way affiliated with Kensington Market or its traditional mom and pop/dirty hipster "scene". Complaining for the sake of complaining and nothing more. They're professional protesters to the core and should be ignored. Anything worth shopping at in KM will still be there post Loblaws. Like some KM retailers told The Toronto Star, perhaps this will make the bad ones up their game or move on.
Corporal Frank / January 28, 2014 at 09:25 pm
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If you want to fight Loblaws set up one of those infernal drum circles out front. I know it keeps me away from Kensington.
Reality! / January 28, 2014 at 09:42 pm
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The Market should be very wary about having a Loblaws nearby. Just look at the effect of the Loblaws at Queen and Portland on the Queen / Spadina area. You can't find any shops within a 1/2 mile radius of that supermarket. I went to Queen / Spadina recently in search of burgers, sushi, banh mi, tandoori wraps, a Thai place -- anything to sate my hunger. Even a convenience store would do. Nothing. No coffee shops. no tortilla places, no pizza. Nada. Even the textiles shops, bead places, and art galleries are gone. I heard that Loblaws started doing free goth and metal shows just to put Velvet Underground out of business. The desert left behind in Loblaws' wake is incredible.
Sean / January 28, 2014 at 09:54 pm
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And 13 storeys of worth of new residents that the merchants of Kensington Market can compete for. Everyone wins.
Judy / January 28, 2014 at 11:00 pm
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WE need to support Canadian owned and operated Loblaws. A Canadian success story. SURE Kensington had a say and a side against the American in the room Walmart BUT don't start preaching to Loblaws a Canadian Icon because you want to sell me kidney beans for $0.05 cents cheaper than a chain. Why should you get the strangle hold on my wallet? Because your prices are cheaper? My I buy on quality or assortment, or knowledge!
Spike replying to a comment from We need Jobs / January 29, 2014 at 02:27 am
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Wal-Mart DOESN'T provide any jobs that are worth the name, and the pay is lousy, forcing people to stay on welfare/ODSP instead of getting off it, and also wrecking nearby areas with stores near them, as well as forcing taxpayers to subsidize it's low wages and poor benefits;

http://walmart1percent.org/issues/top-reasons-the-walton-family-and-walmart-are-not-job-creators/
Spike replying to a comment from Reality! / January 29, 2014 at 02:28 am
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Not to mention the effect the Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws has had on local stores in the gay district of Church Street.
A. / January 29, 2014 at 03:48 am
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I'm sure Loblaws is going to stock food that compares w/ Kensington's shops in order to attract the shops' clientele. For example, I love going to the cheese shops in Kensington, but it's feasible that the new Loblaws will have a cheese section like the MLG store in order to compete. Big business offering lower prices b/c it can, trying to do whatever it takes to steal customers, it's the same pattern repeated over and over again.
Donnie / January 29, 2014 at 05:28 am
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Is Kensington all about groceries? I thought it was about clothing, restaurants, second hand shops, music, market vibe.
Mister Toronto / January 29, 2014 at 09:10 am
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I can not wait to see Kensington Market send the Weston Family packing. Go back to Forest Hill, you generic rip off artists!
Todd replying to a comment from We need Jobs / January 29, 2014 at 11:00 am
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People who work at Walmart aren't boosting neighbourhoods and communities.

They put on artificial smiles so they don't get fired and so shoppers feel comfortable, then they take the $60 they made that day and spend $65 of it, all while contemplating putting a gun in their mouths.

There should be FEWER of these types of jobs.
SV / January 29, 2014 at 09:52 pm
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People vote with their wallets every day- I don't buy Starbucks/Tim Hortons because I support local coffee shops instead, despite convenience or small changes in price- so really doesn't it come down to the question of who Torontonians will vote for? (although, now that I think about it, given the Rob Ford situation this could be bad...)
No name brand / January 30, 2014 at 09:41 am
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These outsiders, for lack of a better term, will start with a grocery store on the outside and systematically go in for the kill as new mainstream businesses work their way in. It all starts with a grocery store.
NativeTorontonianAl / January 31, 2014 at 10:13 am
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The point is that it will be there. Of course you can say, to "vote with your wallet" or "just don't shop there", but that's not going to cut it anymore. These kinds of groups/corporations don't consider any sides and are the intolerant ones. Just like the "just look away" old anglo mentality (too much tolerance)....Okay then, if the undesired subject shows up more and more, what will you continue to do? Look away? Shop elsewhere? But to where? Be mindful and stand up.
JB / February 3, 2014 at 03:58 pm
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Downtown Toronto needs more people, more people will bring more business to existing and future stores. I'm all for it. And I agree that many Kensington stores are in serious need of an upgrade.
WhoCares / February 4, 2014 at 08:30 am
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Posting compliments to yourself now Deryk? How low can you go?

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