Convenience. Convenience is the key for most Parkdale residents. The Toronto neighbourhood has provided suitable housing and schooling options for low-income families and immigrants for years. “I love this neighbourhood” boasts long time local Sheldon Smith, “The TTC car on King takes me across the whole city and even swings up to the subway on both ends. Plus I’m right off the highway to get picked up for out of town work. When this laundromat finally opened up last year, I thought I died and gone to heaven. But now with No Frill’s gone, I’m afraid it’s the first sign that times are changing”. Smith is not the only Parkdalian who is worried about the sudden and unforeseen closure of Vi’s No Frills at 1435 King St W. Many are concerned that the local store will become just another victim of local gentrification, and if it follows the trend of other surprise No Frills closures, won’t open again at all.
Linda’s No Frills in Port Credit, Mississauga, permanently closed in late December when a leasing agreement couldn’t be reached. That site will be redeveloped to include a condo, a commercial storefront and an office space. Land-owners say the new facility will be able to house a grocery if someone chooses to do so, but that the grounds won’t be available for rent for at least 4 years. In the meantime, the Port Credit area is an arid food desert, with elderly residents taking scooters to Dollarama for canned goods and a small market blocks away for bread and milk.
Parkdale locals fear the same fate, including those in the retirement complex next door to Vi’s No Frills. Redevelopment has been a key in the area for the last few years and many are afraid this No Frills may also become condos, creating a serious imbalance and insecurity in the availability of food for the low-income area.
Inock Kim, owner of the local convenience store Jameson Variety Video, says that himself, neighbour Harry’s Grill House and Vi’s No Frills all signed brand new leases late last year and he is confident the Loblaws Corp, which is losing a great deal of money during the closure, are eager to open again ASAP. Of course, conspiracies are flying everywhere with some residents puzzled as to why this store really closed. Parkdale is under huge pressure from development corporations and many think that condos are inevitable, with talk of roof repairs and reopening used to keep questions minimal and residents complacent.
A lot of this distrust comes from the fact that literally one day you could shop there and the very next day it was closed, with absolutely no warning to local residents at all. It’s been nearly ten months since residents of the Coxwell-Gerrard area awoke to find themselves without a neighbourhood grocery store. The sudden closure of Rocca’s No Frills in May left the community without answers and, more importantly, without easy access to healthy and reasonably priced food options.
Following the closure Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communication with Loblaw Companies Limited, Kevin Groh, said “Rocca’s No Frills has served the community for decades and plans to serve it for decades more. To do that, significant building improvements and renovations are required.”
In two months, Rocca’s No Frills will have been closed for a full year, and Parkdale residents are afraid of the same delays ahead for their local food source. These closings have inspired and feed the flames of an unproven conspiracy theory that Loblaws is slowly shutting down low-end/high shrinkage stores, with the intention of selling off the land to developers. It denies this and my research shows there is no evidence except thin circumstance in some cases.
Vi’s No Frills is the only large grocery store in the area of King and Jameson and having closed on December 8th, claiming the need for serious roof repairs. Many patrons of this No Frills location would tell you that the roof was in dire need of patching, with visible leaks and jury-rigged tarps and hoses redirecting water into buckets in various locations throughout the store. With a total interior overhaul last year when Vi took over the location, many residents were impressed with the fresh new look inside. It did not last long as the roof, which was in imminent danger of collapsing, worsened over the wet summer and forced the hands of owners into beginning repairs before the Christmas season. Loblaws Corporation, the parent company for No Frills, padlocked the door, told its landlord that the store was closed and prompted staff to look for temporary work at other No Frill’s locations. When the Loblaws at 301 Moore was turned inside-out for expansion a few years ago, the place was closed for barely an hour or two because of the work. For the most part, the store stayed open and customers stumbled over construction workers to shop or followed carefully hung tarp passages to redirect them away from areas under renovation. The same happened here a year ago during the previously mentioned overhaul. It seems there is a big difference between renovation and reconstruction.
Some staff have taken positions at Peter’s No Frills at 222 Lansdowne. It is the closest No Frill’s to Vi’s and one of the finest in the city with a complimentary shuttle bus coming every 15 minutes to take customers up there. A much larger location with far more food options, Peter’s has deli and fresh fish counters not offered at Vi’s location. Housed in what was once the old Knobb Hill Farms, the vast space offers far more organic and vegan options. Pet owners will rejoice at the expansive pet supply isle and almost a full third of the store is fresh produce and baked goods. Peter’s No Frills also has a fully functioning pharmacy, 4 open concept isles with many of the non-food and kitchen accessories found at Dollarama and 4 jam-packed frozen fridge isles that boast every flavour of ice cream and pizza imaginable. “I far prefer shopping at the Dundas location, but with my recent surgery, waiting for the shuttle bus can take a toll on my stamina.” says local resident Tammy Klippel. “I’m looking forward to the re-opening”. Rumour has it that reopening will be in late March/early April.