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Downtown Grocery Store List (current + proposed)

Sobeys at Dupont is closing October 7th.

Sobeys Urban Fresh at Yonge/St. Clair is closing in October as well; it's due to become a Farm Boy and will re-open as such in fiscal 2023.

That, date, btw, is almost certainly in 2022, as Empire's fiscal year typically ends in the first week of May, so fiscal 2023 will be May 2022-April 2023.
 
Celebrity chef Mark McEwan’s restaurant and gourmet foods business files for creditor protection, citing cash crunch (paywalled)

"Toronto-based McEwan Enterprises Inc. was struggling even before the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in temporary closings and reduced traffic at its locations. The company has not been profitable since 2017, according to court documents." He wants to dump his Yonge & Bloor store, as well as Fabbrica in Don Mills

McEwan's name carries clout among culinary circles in this town, but he seems to find him in periods of financial trouble through the years. I've read this Toronto Life article before, where in the 90's he had to get bailed out by one of Latner boys who he was friends with.

I haven't followed his Don Mills store too much, and have always thought the Yonge & Bloor location was a tough spot to do business. The basement level puts him in an immediate disadvantage. While despite there being quite a bit of space between each store, it felt like Whole Foods, Pusateri's and Eataly later on all had better presence for capturing the market for consumers in the area.


In Toronto, Joshua became friends with the nascent celebrity chef Mark McEwan and a fixture at his restaurant North 44°. When Joshua heard McEwan was having trouble paying his bills, he asked his father to co-sign a bank loan for $200,000. In exchange, McEwan offered the Latners free eating privileges until he paid it off. Stories of Joshua’s antics at the restaurant in the ’90s continue to circulate in Toronto. In one, Joshua stripped down to his bare chest for kicks while eating dinner beside the buttoned-down billionaire Ken Thomson and his wife Marilyn.
 
I haven't followed his Don Mills store too much, and have always thought the Yonge & Bloor location was a tough spot to do business.
Especially with no tourists or office towers.

And cornering the food business at King/Bay/Wellington was lucrative for quite a while, but also pretty dismal when there are no tourists or office towers. No lavish Bay St law firm or investment bank parties to host on your patio, no boozy expense account lunches for a year.
 
Celebrity chef Mark McEwan’s restaurant and gourmet foods business files for creditor protection, citing cash crunch (paywalled)

"Toronto-based McEwan Enterprises Inc. was struggling even before the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in temporary closings and reduced traffic at its locations. The company has not been profitable since 2017, according to court documents." He wants to dump his Yonge & Bloor store, as well as Fabbrica in Don Mills

Amusingly, the proposal already includes a 'sale' of the company, or at least its less money-losing assets back to Mark and his partners, presumably including Fairfax Financial who is the majority owner of McEwan Enterprises today.

They just won't buy the Yonge/Bloor and Don Mills Fabbrica outposts, shedding the worst hemorrhaging.

I haven't followed his Don Mills store too much, and have always thought the Yonge & Bloor location was a tough spot to do business.

This was actually a great area (see the traffic Eataly has been doing); and Pustateri's does well here too.

But the actual physical spot is beyond comprehension. I'm most certainly a target customer, I was only ever in that spot twice.

It was forgettable with its low profile; but beyond that, that spot was wrong-sized, wrongly laid out, and incorrectly merchandised.

The basement level puts him in an immediate disadvantage.

100%

While despite there being quite a bit of space between each store, it felt like Whole Foods, Pusateri's and Eataly later on all had better presence for capturing the market for consumers in the area.

Indeed. Lets make some directly comparisons. Whole Foods is likewise in the basement, so to speak, though it does have natural light from a large skylight.

But, in order to make sure it had street-profile, they put a small cafe right along Avenue Road with Whole Foods branding.

Pustateri's is very visible fronting both Bay and Yorkville, and looks upscale from the outside; and yet inviting, and clearly about food (for anyone not in the know)

Eataly simply has a level of brand recognition that's unbeatable; but they also have a very visible presence along Bloor, and not withstanding that the bulk of the store is on the 2nd floor they have a presence at-grade and again in the basement, so that virtually every Manulife Centre patron will pass their signage.

Their outdoor patio program on Bay and Bloor, while exceedingly shoe-horned in to the point of crowding the sidewalk was a great play during the pandemic, and very popular at times.

By contrast McEwan's Y/B outpost had no patio so far as I'm aware, and it feels like that was never thought of..........surprised at Mark taking that space.........

One and Bymark both have substantial patios, which were their lifeblood through the pandemic.

PS, One, in its first year, sold $12.8M worth of product! (that was way back in 2007/2008

****

As to the Don Mills store.

That was always an odd spot...............but Mark lives fairly close by............

The main supermarket he owns, does ok from a retail perspective but not as well as it could or should............but as I understand it, he uses that location to buy for and service his restaurants (warehouse/commissary etc.)
That's where his office is as well.

I suppose on that basis the market works, but I think Fabbrica was always over-reach, Bridle Pather's can eat out.............and they do; but if they want something nicer than Chipotle..........you're more likely to find them at One, or Bymark than Fabbrica.
The Globe and Mail explained it thusly:

1633382079025.png


In this article: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/rep...usiness/sb-growth/the-outlier/article4259051/
 
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Celebrity chef Mark McEwan’s restaurant and gourmet foods business files for creditor protection, citing cash crunch (paywalled)

"Toronto-based McEwan Enterprises Inc. was struggling even before the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in temporary closings and reduced traffic at its locations. The company has not been profitable since 2017, according to court documents." He wants to dump his Yonge & Bloor store, as well as Fabbrica in Don Mills

Mark's restaurants are for the expense account crowd. Which are not coming to Toronto. His grocery stores are not only overrated but ridiculously expensive, I got some of the best steaks recently from Costco. 56 bucks for four steaks. McEwan's wanted $50 for one steak! It was the same size as what i got form Costco
 
Mark's restaurants are for the expense account crowd. Which are not coming to Toronto.

Certainly, visitors are down; but a great many of the expense account crowd are still in Toronto.

Mark's business is off; but not necessarily by as much as you might imagine.

But to the extent the business was under-performing pre-pandemic; and his dine-in, once allowed, was capped at 50%, there simply was no means to sustain the weight of problem-children in the group.

His grocery stores are not only overrated but ridiculously expensive, I got some of the best steaks recently from Costco. 56 bucks for four steaks. McEwan's wanted $50 for one steak! It was the same size as what i got form Costco

Expensive yes, over-rated, depends on what you want and how you perceive quality.
Wagyu/Kobe steaks can cost over $100 retail, let's not even discuss what you have paid dining on them at Jacobs & Co.
Dry-aging adds value to some cuts; and some people may prize organic and/or grass-fed beef.

Now I'm not going to suggest Mark's Steaks were best-value; they weren't.
But you have to compare Apples to Apples; and you could not buy many of the Steaks Mark sells at Costco.

****

More broadly, I think Mark could deliver better price-points on some product.

On some, he didn't have to.........unique sauces, or even properly made demi-glass are relatively hard to find in Toronto, and those who retail such can demand whatever the market will pay them.

I thought, on the one hand, he had some great value in his deli section, on the stuff they do in-house..........the medium rare striploin roast beef is exceptional, and I recall paying only $4.99 per 100grams or maybe even a bit under.
Which is not cheap deli meat, but a fair price for the best damn deli meat going.

On the other hand, the house-made salad dressings at upwards of $10 a bottle were grossly over-priced. I can make better at home, in 5 minutes flat, for a small fraction of the price.
$5.99 would be good value, and $6.99 aggressive pricing.

A lot of the hot table stuff is fair; though that varied item to item.

But the pre-packed sandwiches were completly unreasonable with prices approaching or even into the teens for some, that didn't have any premium product in them. (ie. chicken-salad sandwich)

A real weakness, in Mark's inventory and repertoire, to me, is cuisine/product boldness and ethnic diversity.

He does try to offer the latter with mixed success; but Mark is not tolerant of real heat in his food; and that shows in his offerings.

****

PS, I'm only up at Mark's like 3, maybe 4x per year. Shopping there is definitely outside my weekly budget!

But I don't view it as that type of place; its where I go ahead of Thanksgiving, and Christmas when cooking for a lot people; maybe an additional time in spring and summer.
It's the place for an affordable luxury; a treat.
 
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The hot table at McEwan's in the TD Centre was not well known, but was really good. But definitely expensive. I don't have a huge appetite, so I could go there and get a nice meal with a variety of items for say $15. Anyone with a big appetite would be paying $25 for stuff off of a buffet. They did a nice breakfast spread too, where you could put together a small full English breakfast for $5-$7 if you weren't too hungry.

And in addition to the TD Centre being a ghost town, buffets are really not that popular any more... but I do hope that comes back one day.
 
Certainly, visitors are down; but a great many of the expense account crowd are still in Toronto.

Mark's business is off; but not necessarily by as much as you might imagine.

But to the extent the business was under-performing pre-pandemic; and his dine-in, once allowed, was capped at 50%, there simply was no means to sustain the weight of problem-children in the group.



Expensive yes, over-rated, depends on what you want and how you perceive quality.
Wagyu/Kobe steaks can cost over $100 retail, let's not even discuss what you have paid dining on them at Jacobs & Co.
Dry-aging adds value to some cuts; and some people may prize organic and/or grass-fed beef.

Now I'm not going to suggest Mark's Steaks were best-value; they weren't.
But you have to compare Apples to Apples; and you could not buy many of the Steaks Mark sells at Costco.

****

More broadly, I think Mark could deliver better price-points on some product.

On some, he didn't have to.........unique sauces, or even properly made demi-glass are relatively hard to find in Toronto, and those who retail such can demand whatever the market will pay them.

I thought, on the one hand, he had some great value in his deli section, on the stuff they do in-house..........the medium rare striploin roast beef is exceptional, and I recall paying only $4.99 per 100grams or maybe even a bit under.
Which is not cheap deli meat, but a fair price for the best damn deli meat going.

On the other hand, the house-made salad dressings at upwards of $10 a bottle were grossly over-priced. I can make better at home, in 5 minutes flat, for a small fraction of the price.
$5.99 would be good value, and $6.99 aggressive pricing.

A lot of the hot table stuff is fair; though that varied item to item.

But the pre-packed sandwiches were completly unreasonable with prices approaching or even into the teens for some, that didn't have any premium product in them. (ie. chicken-salad sandwich)

A real weakness, in Mark's inventory and repertoire, to me, is cuisine/product boldness and ethnic diversity.

He does try to offer the latter with mixed success; but Mark is not tolerant of real heat in his food; and that shows in his offerings.
Certainly, visitors are down; but a great many of the expense account crowd are still in Toronto.

Mark's business is off; but not necessarily by as much as you might imagine.

But to the extent the business was under-performing pre-pandemic; and his dine-in, once allowed, was capped at 50%, there simply was no means to sustain the weight of problem-children in the group.



Expensive yes, over-rated, depends on what you want and how you perceive quality.
Wagyu/Kobe steaks can cost over $100 retail, let's not even discuss what you have paid dining on them at Jacobs & Co.
Dry-aging adds value to some cuts; and some people may prize organic and/or grass-fed beef.

Now I'm not going to suggest Mark's Steaks were best-value; they weren't.
But you have to compare Apples to Apples; and you could not buy many of the Steaks Mark sells at Costco.

****

More broadly, I think Mark could deliver better price-points on some product.

On some, he didn't have to.........unique sauces, or even properly made demi-glass are relatively hard to find in Toronto, and those who retail such can demand whatever the market will pay them.

I thought, on the one hand, he had some great value in his deli section, on the stuff they do in-house..........the medium rare striploin roast beef is exceptional, and I recall paying only $4.99 per 100grams or maybe even a bit under.
Which is not cheap deli meat, but a fair price for the best damn deli meat going.

On the other hand, the house-made salad dressings at upwards of $10 a bottle were grossly over-priced. I can make better at home, in 5 minutes flat, for a small fraction of the price.
$5.99 would be good value, and $6.99 aggressive pricing.

A lot of the hot table stuff is fair; though that varied item to item.

But the pre-packed sandwiches were completly unreasonable with prices approaching or even into the teens for some, that didn't have any premium product in them. (ie. chicken-salad sandwich)

A real weakness, in Mark's inventory and repertoire, to me, is cuisine/product boldness and ethnic diversity.

He does try to offer the latter with mixed success; but Mark is not tolerant of real heat in his food; and that shows in his offerings.

****

PS, I'm only up at Mark's like 3, maybe 4x per year. Shopping there is definitely outside my weekly budget!

But I don't view it as that type of place; it's where I go ahead of Thanksgiving, and Christmas when cooking for a lot people; maybe an additional time in spring and summer.
Its the place for an affordable luxury; a treat.


Expense account types are still around but they aren't going out for expensive power lunches like the Bay street suits used to. Even before the pandemic, expensive stuffy fine dining is dying a breed. Being replaced by more casual and fast food type establishments. Fine dining costs too much to run, WAY too much overhead especially now with all these restrictions.

Personally i was never "wowed" by any of McEwan's restaurants. Little bland, the menu's are a little too much meat and potatoes for my liking.

I have had McEwan's steaks. They are great steaks, but not worth the price. I'm talking usda steak not Wagyu/Kobe. When i want a quality steak to cook at home without breaking the bank. i would rather just get my steak from Costco. They do sell great quality meats.

I only shopped at the McEwan's store at Don Mills, the staff are all extremely knowledgeable and helpful, but i don't find the food worth the price point. I shopped a lot at McEwan's when it first opened, but now i find myself shopping there less and less each year, with so many other stores now upping the food quality.
 
Expense account types are still around but they aren't going out for expensive power lunches like the Bay street suits used to. Even before the pandemic, expensive stuffy fine dining is dying a breed. Being replaced by more casual and fast food type establishments. Fine dining costs too much to run, WAY to much overhead especially now with all these restrictions.
People with expense accounts have been basically not allowed to use them for most of the last two years. Bymark would have done just fine over the last two years if there wasn't a pandemic. People like more casual places now... like the new Rabbit Hole pub, where the burger only costs $25, or you can get a pasta for $28. Or a steak and mushroom pie, the ultimate working class food, for $26.

These places will all come roaring back when people start to return in numbers to the downtown towers. Hopefully we're not that far from that day.
 
I noticed Metro has finally rolled out demand-based pricing for grocery delivery fees. I thought this was coming when on the page where you select the time slot you want for deliveries they started including the delivery cost, but after six months it was nothing but $11.99 for every time block. Now the prices vary, with some slots still $11.99, while others are $7.99. The time of day and days of the week where they offer the discounted delivery varies, so I assume some demand modelling is done in the background to encourage you to select a time better for them, and in return you pay $4 less.

$8 for a large grocery delivery is a pretty good deal, especially if it's all the bulky items that are hard to carry.
 
No surprise here. McEwan Fine Foods at Yonge and Bloor will now be closing.

Perhaps McEwan should have considered the Lynn Crawford route to get through the pandemic and compromise her brand to sell or do anything that anyone throws your way. She's promoting some fast food chain's (I can't remember which one) little $3 snack wraps in her chef's coat on TV commercials, she is in multiple brain dead reality-TV cooking show competitions that are low budget knock-offs of Chopped, and she even has her own line of frozen foods now! Lynn Crawford, the frozen food chef!

This plastic bag of sauce included here really does not look appetizing to pour over your shrimp (these are their own promotional materials!).

3babd16b2da28f54585b2634e7d1bf42.jpg

All that said, I'm sure she's making money hand over fist, which McEwan is not.
 
I noticed Metro has finally rolled out demand-based pricing for grocery delivery fees. I thought this was coming when on the page where you select the time slot you want for deliveries they started including the delivery cost, but after six months it was nothing but $11.99 for every time block. Now the prices vary, with some slots still $11.99, while others are $7.99. The time of day and days of the week where they offer the discounted delivery varies, so I assume some demand modelling is done in the background to encourage you to select a time better for them, and in return you pay $4 less.

$8 for a large grocery delivery is a pretty good deal, especially if it's all the bulky items that are hard to carry.
Voila does that plus they offer a monthly flat fee option
 

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