Woodstock, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1926-2019

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Andrew T.
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Woodstock, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1926-2019

Post by Andrew T. » 28 Jun 2019 19:02

If you head east out of London en route to Toronto, the first city you'll come to is Woodstock. Even though I've driven through it quite a few times, however, I never really thought to do research there before. I guess I just figured it was too small and inconsequential a place to be of interest.

In reality, I was giving it the short shift. Its population is the same as that of Stratford, a city that's been covered on Groceteria previously. It's also a major centre of automotive manufacturing, with both Toyota and General Motors having massive facilities there. Until it closed in 2001, Woodstock was also home to the Canadian plant of Thomas Built Buses of High Point, NC...a Triad trivia bit that David might find interesting. (Or not.)

So, without further ado:
Woodstock, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1926-2019

If your familiar with the supermarket history of other southwest Ontario cities, you'll find a lot that's familiar here.
* As usual, Dominion was the first chain, and A&P and Loblaws became established by the end of the 1920s.
* Most chains in Woodstock retained downtown store locations until the 1960s or even later. Woodstock's downtown is clustered around Dundas Street, and Dundas Street addresses make up two-thirds of the table.
* Dominion seemed to have had one of its strange lapses of existence in Woodstock, disappearing from the directories by 1960 before reemerging in 1966. It's possible that what happened was that the chain simply moved to a new store outside the city limits: A Dominion opened up at an unnumbered location on the east side of Ingersoll Road by 1966, and this store may have also existed in 1960. I'd wager a guess that this location is now 171.
* Loblaws also had a momentary departure from the city after it closed its sole 1950s-era store in the 1980s. They eventually returned under the Zehrs banner.
* I thought I had made copies from the 1946 directory, but I evidently forgot. Not that it matters: None of the chains opened new stores in Woodstock that decade.
* Falkins IGA isn't listed in the 1970 directory, but the alphabetical section does list the manager's residential address!
* The Blandford Square Mall was located on the northeast end of Woodstock, and originally featured Woolco and Dominion as anchors. Woolco became Wal-Mart and Dominion became Mr. Grocer and Your Independent Grocer...until both stores closed, the mall was demolished, and the property reused as the site for a Toyota plant!
* Sobeys was operating in Woodstock by 1996, two years before the Oshawa Group acquisition. The Oshawa Group's own Woodstock store, meanwhile, had a Food City > IGA > Foodland metamorphosis.
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

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Andrew T.
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Re: Woodstock, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1926-2019

Post by Andrew T. » 28 Jun 2019 20:29

Like any other good city, Woodstock has its share of interesting stores and artifacts. The best of these was this terrific 1960s Dominion at 236 Springbank, now housing a dollar store:
woodstockdominion.jpg
The store in question seems to have had a surprisingly brief operational existence, probably closing in 1973 when Dominion jumped ship to the Blandford Square Mall. Their early exit might have been unintentionally beneficial for long-term preservation, since the building basically looks the same now as it did 40-odd years ago.
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

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Andrew T.
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Re: Woodstock, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1926-2019

Post by Andrew T. » 29 Jun 2019 09:18

Here's another artifact at 478 Dundas Street...although it's a location that gives me more questions than answers:
woodstockloblaws.jpg
According to the books, this was formerly the site of a Loblaws store. The building is outfitted with a intact porcelain enamel facade, typical of Loblaws in the early 1950s. The back of the store is also decked out in blonde brick with an incinerator smokestack, exactly like I'd expect a 1950s Loblaws to be.

Except, the timing doesn't make sense. This was the site of Loblaws' first store...which opened by 1930 and closed by 1956, when the chain moved to 432 Simcoe Street (no longer standing).

Did Loblaws demolish their pre-existing storefront in the early 1950s and go to the effort of building a new store on the same site, only to shut it down in an eyeblink (effectively wasting their investment) and move a mere two blocks away?

Or could this building have never housed a supermarket? Maybe it was built for whatever tenant came after Loblaws, even though it has a Loblaws-like appearance through and through?

Mysteries...
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

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Re: Woodstock, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1926-2019

Post by Groceteria » 01 Jul 2019 21:21

Andrew T. wrote:
28 Jun 2019 19:02
A Dominion opened up at an unnumbered location on the east side of Ingersoll Road by 1966, and this store may have also existed in 1960. I'd wager a guess that this location is now 171.
I'm almost certain you're correct about this.

I'll have this list added by tomorrow. Thanks!


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Re: Woodstock, ON chain grocery/supermarket history, 1926-2019

Post by Andrew T. » 02 Jul 2019 20:38

Now I only need to get to St. Thomas, and the ring around London will be complete!
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

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