Popular Calgary grocer Freestone Produce unpopular with neighbours

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Popular Calgary grocer Freestone Produce unpopular with neighbours
A very popular and busy discount grocer in Calgary is facing some backlash from its neighbours. As Tomasia DaSilva reports, some say the traffic chaos around Freestone Produce is disrupting their businesses – May 27, 2024

A very popular and busy grocer selling discount produce in Calgary is facing backlash from some neighbouring businesses.

Freestone Produce, located in the city’s northeast, is under fire from surrounding businesses that claim its customers are causing massive traffic headaches in the area.

“It’s awful,” Sean Semark told Global News.

Semark owns Wise Guys Liquor, located across the street from Freestone. He said despite numerous signs stating the parking outside his store is private property, Freestone’s clients continue to park there.

“My own customers have difficulty parking in this parking lot. Literally right in front of my store. Their customers are taking up my customers’ space.”

“We don’t mind if people park in this parking lot if they’re going to also shop with the neighbouring businesses of ours,” he added. “But they blatantly don’t. They just park here.”

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Sign in the parking lot of neighbouring plaza. Tomasia DaSilva

Kunal Darji, who owns neighbouring restaurant Quesada Burritos & Tacos, agreed, adding it has cost him business — especially during lunch hour rushes.

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“Lunch time is a very busy time,” he said. “No one wants to spend 20 minutes just to enter the plaza to get their food.”

“If our customers can’t find parking space here — they will not come here. We are losing our customers.”

Darji said he has emailed the city three to four times and has not received any solution to the problem.

Semark said the property management company for the complex has done the same. Both add there has been no change from the city or Freestone.

“I think the business over there just doesn’t care about this community,” he said. “They’re only thinking about themselves.”

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Parking jam in front of Freestone Produce. Tomasia DaSilva

Freestone co-owner Ali Soufan disagreed, adding the family-run business was started in 2011 to “meet the needs of the community.” Soufan pointed out they’re helping a lot of Calgarians by offering affordable food and that’s why the store is so popular.

Soufan did say they are addressing some of the concerns from the community by expanding their building and also their staff. The addition of staff, he pointed out, should help get customers in and out of the store quicker.

“We’re doubling up the number of cashiers,” he said.

“We can’t create more land but at least we can be more efficient on the inside.”

The entrepreneur pointed out while that will hopefully control some of the chaos in the parking lot, he “can’t control what people do” when it comes to parking outside, adding that is up to the city.

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“That’s what the city is there for,” he said. “That’s why they ticket. That’s why they enforce those laws.”

City of Calgary response

City of Calgary officials responded tell Global News, “We will maintain a regular presence in the area for the foreseeable future to ensure that people are aware of and following the rules. Our primary focus will be on educating the community, though we will issue tickets when necessary.”

Ward 10 alderman Andre Chabot also told Global News he has “personally experienced the traffic congestion that this (land) use has created.”

He added he will be seeking input from administration about how this use was permitted, and what measures can be implemented to mitigate the traffic and parking related complaints that this has generated.”

The expansion of Freestone Produce is expected in the next few months.

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