October 12, 2018 8:05 pm
Updated: October 13, 2018 4:00 pm

Community grocery stores closing down in east Edmonton

WATCH ABOVE: For decades they've been anchors in their communities. But as Sarah Kraus explains, two small grocery stores in east Edmonton say they can't compete with their larger competitors anymore.


They’ve been anchors in their communities for decades, but soon, two small neighbourhood grocery stores in Edmonton will go the way of the dinosaur.

The Gold Bar TGP will shut down first, on Nov. 19. It will be followed by the Ottewell TGP next May.

“If you look at flyers, there’s a lot of deals everywhere,” explained Michael Hunschie, TGP’s retail corporate operations manager. “It’s just competition in the grocery industry has razor-thin margins.”

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Both stores were purchased by TGP in 2014, when the merger of Safeway and Sobeys resulted in the Competition Bureau forcing the company to sell off dozens of locations.

TGP thought it could make a go of it and tried to promote the local stores.

READ MORE: Grocery store chain Sobeys signs deals to sell 30 stores in Western Canada

“We’ve got a scratch and save day monthly, we’ve got a seniors day… we did a free milk promo,” said Kevin Johnson, the store’s urban retail manager. “Through the summer we did daily deals. We had one item per day that was at an extremely hot price, attempting to drive traffic to the stores.”

But in the end, Hunschie says sales continued to decline year after year.

“It’s very tough because it’s going to impact a lot of people. It’s not just a financial decision, it’s a people decision. It’s going to impact our employees and the communities.”

READ MORE: Canadians can expect rising food prices due to cost pressures, U.S. trade war: grocery CEOs

About 60 employees are being laid off in the closures, some of whom have worked there for more than three decades.

“It was tough,” Johnson explained. “There were a lot of tears. We have a lot of long-tenured employees. This impacts a lot of families.”

TGP has decided not to renew the leases on the stores and Hunschie said the decision is final. The grocery stores just couldn’t keep up. A Safeway and Walmart are located nearby.

“It’s people looking to spend their dollars wherever it’s cheapest. They’re not scared to travel any longer,” he said.

“It’s sad for the neighbourhood because it’s going to change the feel of it,” explained Gold Bar’s community league president, Adam Rompfer. “But I think a lot of people took this store for granted.

“They used it as a convenience store and did their main shopping at the two very large stores nearby. They voted with their dollars and their wallets.”

Gold Bar resident Jamie Melnyk said that was the case for his family too.

“I’m like most people,” Melnyk said. “I came for a jug of milk, I came for a roast chicken [or I was] making a cake and you forgot something and came here to grab it. But that was about it.

“I don’t know too many people that did their weekly or big shopping here. But I think just about everybody in the community used it. So it’s going to be missed by all.”

Rompfer said he doesn’t want to see the space sit vacant.

“I hope that there’s someone else that’s able to take this place over and do something, instead of it being an empty building.”

Rompfer would like to see some specialty stores move into the strip-mall, similar to what has happened in Ritchie Market.

The property management company for Gold Bar, Midwest Properties Management, has not yet returned Global News’ inquiries.

Anthem Properties, the owners of the Ottewell Plaza, released provided Global News with a statement about the store closure.

“We’re sad to lose TGP next May as one of our anchor tenants at Ottewell Plaza,” the statement said. “We have already received interest from other businesses — all would be great additions to Ottewell Plaza and would serve our customers well, so we hope to announce a new tenant in the upcoming months.”

The Gold Bar store will soon start reducing the size of its orders and will eventually have a clearance sale to get rid of any remaining food.

For employees like Johnson, it will be an emotional end.

“I’ll definitely miss the people and the community. We’ve got a small but mighty team here and I’ll miss a lot of them.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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