Loblaw Groceterias Company Limited building is located at 500 Lake Shore Blvd W (at Bathurst St on the northeast corner) in the CityPlace neighbourhood of Toronto.
Loblaw Groceterias Warehouse & Head Office
Originally constructed between 1927 and 1928, the 4-storey, Art Deco-style building served as the grocery chain’s warehouse and head office. It also had a single-storey north wing. The building was designed by architects Sparling, Martin & Forbes and was one of the first structures in the area built on land claimed from Lake Ontario by the Toronto Harbour Commission.
Inside the stone and brick-clad building was the most modern facility of its time. There were six huge freight elevators, 22,000 ft of refrigeration piping, an overhead electric tram railway and pneumatic tubes that carried messages between various departments. Products were received and shipped using the adjacent railway line.
Loblaw’s specialty brands were manufactured and packaged in the building – coffee and tea from around the world were blended, cookies and cakes were baked (1.5 tons daily), meats were smoked, and butter was sliced (120,000 pounds weekly). These are just a few products produced at the site that were whisked off to the company’s stores.
When employees took a break, they could spend it in the bowling alley, playing billiards or ping pong in the building’s recreation area.
Through the Years
In 1934, a large extension fronting Bathurst St, north of Housey St, was constructed for the company’s garage and shops. It was designed by Loblaw Groceterias staff architect James A Parrott. A portion of the building was later home to Amsterdam Brewery (this extension was demolished in 2013).
In 1949, the head office was relocated across the street in the former Crosse & Blackwell building. In 1960, the Gardiner Expressway was built directly over the north one-storey portion of the warehouse.
When the company moved their headquarters in the 1970s, the building later became the warehouse and distribution centre of the Daily Bread Food Bank until 2000. The following year, the gem was given heritage status in 2001, but it then sat vacant and was left to the elements.
The West Block
In 2015, Wittington Properties Limited, owner of the historic property, began redeveloping the 3.5-acre site for a mixed-use complex called the West Block. The one-storey north portion was completely demolished. The bricks and stone on the west, south and some of the east exterior walls of the 4-storey building were carefully dismantled and numbered. They were then restored, and each was replaced in the same original location on the new building.
In 2020, the Loblaw Groceterias building reopened. It’s home to a flagship Loblaws store along with a Shoppers Drug Mart and a Joe Fresh clothing store. Sitting on top of the Art Deco building is a 5-storey glass and steel office annex. The West Block also features two residential condo towers.
About T.P. Loblaw & the Company
In 1889, at age 17, Theodore Pringle Loblaw left his family farm in Alliston (90 km northwest of the city) with $20 in his pocket and headed for Toronto. He found work as a grocery clerk for WG Cork, once at 400 King St E, earning $3.00 a week. The young Mr Loblaw saved his money and invested in a store owned by his employer’s son J Milton Cork on College St. The pair formed a partnership and, at the turn of the 20th century, began opening a chain of small grocery stores in the city under the “T. P. Loblaw” name.
In 1919, Loblaw and Cork sold approximately 20 of their 25 stores to the newly-established Dominion Stores Ltd. That same year, the retail duo formed a new chain called Loblaw Groceterias, pioneering a new concept in Toronto – a self-serve, cash-and-carry grocery store with all products under one roof. This innovative new way of grocery shopping meant customers could make their dollar go further, and as Mr Cork put it, “they are willing to serve themselves and make their own deliveries.” The first Loblaw Groceteria was located at 2923 Dundas St W.
The company expanded throughout Ontario and into New York and Illinois. When Theodore Loblaw passed away suddenly in 1933, there were over 100 stores in Ontario alone. In 1947, W Garfield Weston acquired 100,000 shares of Loblaw stock from J Milton Cork, and by the early 1950s, George Weston Ltd had a controlling interest in Loblaw.
Did You Know?
The groceteria system changed how we shopped for food. Before the self-serve “groceteria” system was introduced, products were kept behind counters, and a grocery store clerk would assemble your order for you. While it was a high level of service, it was also labour-intensive.
What is the origin of the word “groceteria”? According to Merriam-Webster, in 1913, a firm in Montana patented “groceteria” for a self-service grocery store and based it on the word cafeteria.
When Loblaw Groceterias building opened in 1928, its address was on Fleet St W, when the street ran from Yonge St to Strachan Ave. Today, Fleet St runs from Bathurst Ave to Strachan Ave.
In the late 1920s, Dominion Stores Ltd had plans to take the option on Loblaw Groceterias Company Ltd stock; however, plans were abandoned in part due to the stock market crash in October 1929.
In the early 1930s, the company began selling cellophane-wrapped meats through the self-serve system. Known as “Meateterias,” customers could simply go to the display case and make their choice.
In 1939, “Loblaws” signs began replacing the “Loblaw Groceteria” signs on the storefronts.
In 1949, the company began opening “super markets” with features like automatic doors, air-conditioning and larger parking lots.
The company has introduced product brands, including no name® (1978), President’s Choice® (1984) and PC Organics® (2001).