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Jan 7, 2008 05:14 PM

Loblaw's = downhill

I just spent a frustrating evening shopping at the local No Frills AND Loblaws. My first visit to No Frills in several months and for the first time ever, found lots of empty shelves. I couldn't find everything I wanted (I couldn't even find canned tomatoes), so I went the Loblaws next. Some empty shelves and LOTS of crappy produce. I mean, the kind I would put in the compost. And then I tried to buy something from the bakery counter, but there was no salesperson at all. I flagged someone down, whose job was in produce but was willing to ring in something for me, and he couldn't ring in the code in the machine. So I had to leave without buying anything at all.
I had stories like this a few years ago when Loblaw's was transitioning, but I thought they were in the process of getting their act together. It's too bad because I've always liked the store and the company.

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  1. The food business is changing, maybe too fast for the new Weston scion. I go to Costco, but I find Sobey's, Dominion, and especially the Asian stores fill the gap.

    1. Right, two iffy stores and NG's a smoking ruin? Get real! The same could be said of any of the chains. NG stores in Mississauga/Brampton vary wildly--NoFrills, Loblaws, Fortino's--due in no small part to individual outlet's management and staff. Walmart's much-feared entry into groceries hasn't exactly proceeded at warp speed in ON. is no brain trust. Costco seems to f-up the least--the result of careful management and decent CRM.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Kagemusha

        I've been a longtime customer of both these stores, and I've never had these problems before. Then they both have similar stocks problems at the same time? Doesn't seem like a coincidence to me.

        1. re: merlot143

          That' strange. I went into my nearby Fortinos this evening and the shelves were bare! Lots of empty spaces and missing items. . Is there trouble in Westonville?

      2. Were there any signs up about a renovation? Many of the Loblaws markets are being turned into Superstores. The one near me (at Mavis and Dundas in Mississauga) closed this past Saturday and is re-opening on Wednesday morning. For the past few months, they've been tearing down sections, moving departments around, emptying out shelves, offering $10 coupons off your bill, etc.

        1 Reply
        1. re: gnuf

          They are renovating quite a few stores, but not into superstores. My understanding is that superstores not already underway are very dead.

        2. I'm not sure your post is meaningful on its own, but you are absolutely right. Galen Jr has said this himself. Although there are vast differences in the capabilities of Loblaw store managers, and of No Frills franchisees, your experiences aren't uncommon.

          I can cite specific examples myself. An ownership change at my local No Frills (Riverdale Plaza) completely changed the shopping experience for the worse. My local Loblaws (Leslie/Lakeshore) has been terrible for years, and hasn't improved despite multiple management changes. Their stocking practices are weird (they don't stock many very common, popular items, an absurdity), produce and fish can be appalling, service counters are not necessarily staffed, and it's all bag-your-own (this is a full price store).

          But the problem is much bigger, even though many Loblaws offer a superb shopping experience (Queens Quay, Vic Park/Gerrard, and Forest Hill are really nice). After twenty years of doing almost everything right, Loblaws decided they could do it all, and do it on their own - and they couldn't. They got full of themselves, stopped listening to customers, and really lost their way.

          Prices are perceived as too high, even by Weston himself, though Dominion and Sobey's actually cost more. They, alone, do not have any 24 hour stores. The superstores have bombed badly - they are difficult to navigate, and their non-food inventory adventures would have killed a company with shallower pockets. They took on Wal-Mart in a pre-emptive strike, and they made Wal-Mart antsy for years, but they blew it completely and are now licking their wounds.

          Even their their mainstream grocery inventory has been out of whack for a few years. They still have President's Choice, but they need a new Dave Nichol (who was a horrible man to work for, BTW) and a new Jim White, neither of whom they have. And Galen Jr telling us that their new "green" shopping bags will be H-U-G-E ain't going to do the job.

          In short, these few stores are the tip of a very deep iceberg and Loblaws is in very bad shape. Back in the seventies, Loblaws was nearly dead. In a last ditch effort, they threw tons of cash at their problems and they made it work. They got superb merchandising (Nichol & White) and great business management (Currie) and became the North American grocery star for two decades. That's all gone now - it really is. They are fighting for survival.

          42 Replies
          1. re: embee

            embee: I'm in your neighbourhood and shop at the same No Frills and Loblaws. My experiences with both have been just downright appalling! The only cooking of any complexity I bother with any more is Asian, as I can reliably get ingredients in Chinatown East. Even if I pick an incredibly basic recipe, odds are excellent that a visit to both Loblaws and No Frills will still have me missing certain ingredients. A few weeks ago I decided to chance things and make some very simple meatloaf. Wouldn't you know it? Both stores were completely out of oregano, both fresh and dried. I just about hit the roof. How can you not have something as common as oregano in stock?

            Honestly, No Frills is pretty cheap, so I'm quite forgiving of them, but for the ridiculous prices Loblaws charges, they'd better damn well get their act together. Stop doing stupid stuff like opening in-store gyms, dry cleaning, etc. and just stock your freaking shelves already. I don't have a car and going to two stores to *maybe* make a meal is an entire evening for me, and that's before the cooking.

            1. re: vorpal

              The cute new little tags they are putting on the shelves speak volumes - the ones that say "please stock me" to the employees. In past years, employees seemed able to stock empty shelves without this "help". (If you work at a Loblaw store, don't be defensive - I know the fault isn't at your level.)

              Anyone who questions the basic point made by the OP needs to read the business press.

              1. re: embee

                What I noticed were little tags everywhere that said, "Spend less". A bit desparate and not too effective IMHO.

            2. re: embee

              Maybe I am dating myself here, but does anyone else see a pattern? I remember back in the early to mid-80's when there were "Supercentres" which were essentially a Loblaws with a bunch of non-grocery departments (I think that my mother still has the Sony clock-radio she bought there). I remember not long afterward, they closed those departments down and started focusing on their supposed core-compentancy which was the groceries. I believe it was at this time that Mike Nichol and PC really came into their own.

              Lately, I have found myself shopping at more than one store usually Highland Farms & Walmart (in Woodbridge...hey it is close to work), HF for the selection & quality and Walmart for prices...and only going to Loblaws when there isn't much else around...they have become more of an convenience store for me.

              And one last question...does anyone else notice that the prices b/w the various Loblaws are not consistent? Granted I haven't been to Loblaws in some time, but I do recall going to the Bayview & Sheppard location and seeing that the price for some of their items were much more expensive than the Yonge & Steeles location....or maybe that was just my perception....

              1. re: Lazar

                I also shop at the Leslie St. Loblaws, or should I say, use to. Than I switched to Sobey's on Broadview. I've heard that they were going to tear the Leslie St. building down. That was apparently why the video store and donut place had shut down. Now I'm not so sure, and it appears that they are fixing up the Loblaw's slightly and widdening the aisles. I only shop there for canned goods. Produce I prefer to pick up on the Danforth or anywhere else but Loblaw's.
                I'm looking forward to the new Sobey's on Laird opening up, which should be very soon. They have a hiring sign out front.

                1. re: millygirl

                  Well, guess what guys, the Leslie Street store is being turned into a Superstore. Thats why the other tenants are on month to month leases. The bulk store is staying put with few or no changes. The problem with shopping at T.&T. is you can get very few of your basics. I'ts great if you cook with asian ingredients, but hey, sometimes I want tomato soup for dinner! It's great for a hundred choices of noodles, not so great for spaghetti.

                  1. re: Leslieville

                    Ahha, thought so. Do you know if the plan is to add on to the existing building? I thought I heard that they were going to tear it down and start all over again.

                    1. re: millygirl

                      According to my source( I've always wanted to say that) They are using the existing building. Sounds very much like someone else posted about their neighbourhood store- They close up as a Loblaws and a few days later, they open as a super-store. As long as the bulk store stays I'll be happy! I think it's happening in the next few months, but not sure exactly when.

                    2. re: Leslieville

                      I don't know what they plan to call the place, but this info confirms what I posted earlier - the Real Canadian Superstore, as exemplified by Don Mills & Wynford, is dead, dead, dead. And given their experience to date, that may be a good thing.

                      They may add more kitchenware, small appliances, storage accessories, and the Joe Fresh line. But it will be a VERY different concept, and possibly a more rational one, than the Real Canadian Superstore/Wal-Mart Supercentre, model. This store is much too small for that. They would need to add half the parking lot to the building.

                      1. re: embee

                        After reading more of this thread (plus the need for one item), out of curiousity I went into the Don Mills/Eglinton Real Canadian Superstore for the first time in ages last night. The place was an absolute disaster - almost devoid of produce, tons of carts abandoned everywhere, tons of empty shelves and half-empty outside track freezers (except for the Joe Fresh section, which on glance appeared fully stocked), products that were available were strewn everywhere. It was as if they still haven't received their first post-weekend/New Year's shipments? Had the floor been dirty, it would have reminded me strongly of some of the lousier Food Basics locations.

                        1. re: jamie

                          I regularly shop at that Superstore, and I have to say it's not generally that bad. Produce is always better than the Leslie & Lakeshore Loblaws, but never as good as Longo's at York Mills & Leslie (both of these alternatives are also pricier). That said, I went to T & T for the first time tonight, and I will be shopping there as much as possible from now on, as the produce was excellent in terms of variety, quality and price.

                          1. re: jamie

                            Wow. I can tell you that the DonMills Supercentre was just fine on the 11th. All produce in stock, as were all items that I noticed, on the shelves. Clean, too. Sounds like night and day.

                            1. re: Yongeman

                              Ya, it sounds like an anomaly to me, too, considering it is where I usually shop, and almost always find what I need.

                    3. re: Lazar

                      Absolutely right to all who have posted re the downward spiral and for just about all of the stated reasons..My local Loblaws (Dupont & Christie) is about to undergo some BIG changes (was told by 3 staff people in November)slated for early Spring. Even though this store makes a profit, the St.Clair (Forest Hill) branch is outperforming...I, personally do not like St.Clair branch and will continue to support Dupont & Christie as long as I can comfortably shop there. That being said, even in November I found myself going to the Sobey's at Shaw Street more often out of necessity because a lot of stock was missing at Dupont Loblaws. Apparently the 'employee's union' is also there are indeed, some serious problems.

                      1. re: pearlD

                        if you live in the dupont and christie area, why not shop at Fiesta Farms? probably the only local independent big grocer left in toronto, and doing a hell of a job trying to meet the increasing demand for local and organic items. beats shopping at any of the corporate chains any day.

                        1. re: Kasia

                          I found their overall stock different from, and more interesting than, the stock at the corporate chains. But I was very disappointed in the quality of their deli, meat, and fish.

                          1. re: Kasia

                            Fiesta Farms has never been a store that appeals to me....I do use their 'nursery' in the summer months and find it all right...nothing special but usually buy some hanging plants/impatiens...the store itself simply doesn't 'catch my eye'...perhaps I am too tuned into the whole Loblaws/P.C.corporate mentality? I don't go out of my way to buy 'organic' so that would not constitute a reason to change markets..who knows by the the time I get back to Toronto perhaps I'll be more adaptable if my local(Dupont) Loblaws has changed significantly.

                            1. re: pearlD

                              Fiesta Farms is a far superior supermarket to either Sobeys or Loblaws. Their bakery and deli alone are worth going for but when you add the better selection of organic and fair trade products plus a better produce section then most other supermarkets its a sure fire winner. Plus its owned by people from the area and I always like supporting that. Between the PAT and Bloor and Clinton and Fiesta Farms I basically only go to Loblaws for their weekly loss leader.

                              Either way Fiesta Farms is truly a better shopping experience for any foodie. I've seen a myriad of Toronto chef's shop in there and over a decade have personally experienced it as a quality place.

                              1. re: Ender

                                Although I don't live too close, I agree with Fiesta Farms--it's kind of like the people's Whole Foods. Ender, what's the PAT?

                                1. re: Yongeman

                                  PAT is a korean grocer on bloor west that's often overlooked. love that i can get perilla/shiso leaves from there and some great ramen when i'm not in the t&t nabe.

                                  fiesta farms only really gets me for their dry/packaged goods and some of the produce. most of the other times i find quite overpriced. this past summer i got some excellent peaches from them for cheap.

                                  i have very low expectations for no frills and most of the time they're met. so i have few complaints about them.

                                  1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                    PAT is also in Miss., and at Lawrence and Warden.
                                    Great for rice, miso, seaweed, and most Japanese or Korean items.

                        2. re: Lazar

                          Loblaws in my area just keeps getting better and better. However I've never liked Loblaw's prices so I use the Price Chopper for basics like canned goods and basic produce.

                          If I want something fancy or I need cuisine ingredients or organics I hit Loblaws. I wouldn't say they're going downhill on the surface, although beneath the surface who knows whats going on.

                          If I had my way, I'd live close to a small local produce stand so I could buy fresh daily.

                          1. re: 50firstdatesguy

                            The Queens Quay Loblaws prices are ridiculous, everything is marked up anywhere from 50 cents to 2 dollars..... yet I still shop there because of the convenience.

                          2. re: Lazar

                            I actually will step in and defend the loblaws superstore in my neighbourhood, which is 401/weston rd..
                            In terms of product selection and variety it ranks higher then any grocery store i've been too (eg. jamaican, indian, thai, italian, chinese/asian sections). I have been able to buy everything from curry paste to panko crumbs under this one roof. As well, they offer seasonal produce and exotic produce most of the time. The bakery is also quite good - I love caramel crunch (the larocca cake)
                            I actually love that they have clothes/kitchen supplies and a gym under the same roof. The prices are incredible. I got a betty crocker rice cooker for 9.99 that does the job. Evenmore, if I need that odd kitchen tool for a recipe I am going to make that night, I dont need to make a seperate trip.
                            The gym helps too!!!! Its the only one in my neighbourhood.
                            But back on point.I do agree that most grocery stores are lacking. I still do my shopping at mulitple locations, but if I did not have this luxury, this superstore would suffice.

                            1. re: Lazar

                              It seems like Loblaws' supply chain issues, which were widely reported a couple of years ago, are still a problem that plagues the company. As other have said, the problems seem to be more noticeable on a store-to-store basis, though I admit the only part of the Loblaws empire I tend to shop at these days is No Frills, which I find tend to have fewer stock problems.

                              What did surprise me was the lack of in-store sampling at Loblaws locations for the Christmas Insider's Report. I stopped at several locations in TO and Mississauga the weekend it came out and the only sampling I saw was for dim sum that wasn't even in the report!

                              1. re: Lazar

                                Yes, you're dating yourself :-)

                                They had some stores stores so big (Vic Park & Eg was one - it's now a No Frills PLUS a Zellers and a mall) that staff had to use roller skates to get around. But they so feared "cannibalizing" their regular stores that they disassociated these places from the Loblaw's brand. They refused to accept Loblaw's cheque cashing cards or honour Loblaw's advertised prices. Not surprisingly, these stores didn't succeed.

                                They had other stores that were really cheap, called Food Warehouses, the forerunner of today's No Frills. Vic Park/Lawrence and Leslie/Lakeshore were two of these stores. Lawrence is now a No Frills. Lakeshore became a full price Loblaws sometime in the eighties or nineties, but warehouse store vestiges (like universal self bagging with especially crappy bags) remain.

                                Loblaws Ontario never mastered general merchandise, which is a very different business from food. The "Real Canadian Superstores" were a Western Canada phenomenon. Loblaws had no Western Canada presence before they opened these stores. My understanding is that they tried to move their experienced non-food people to Brampton from Calgary, and these folks simply quit. They've never been able to get the non-food logistics (Wal-Mart's great strength) organized, and their supply chain has never worked. That's why you might see forty toilet brush facings on an otherwise empty Superstore shelf. Seasonal merchandise would miss its season. They even messed up the groceries. Why, for example, do natural foods and laundry detergents share an aisle?

                                Wal-Mart held off bringing groceries to Ontario for many years. Unlike US grocery chains, Loblaws seemed to cover the entire price/service spectrum, from NoFrills, to high end, to almost full line department stores. They came in when Loblaws began to slide. I don't like Wal-Mart for many reasons, from their employment practices, to their politics, to their destruction of entire main streets. (Before Wal-Mart came on the scene, Loblaws was considered a good place to work. Now Wal-Mart sets the employment standards, and at a much lower level.) But I was surprised at Wal-Mart's grocery selection: essentially mid-to-high end stuff at No Frills prices.

                                It's common for grocers to vary prices by neighbourhood. One New York chain openly admitted that their nicer stores in better neighbourhoods had higher quality food, at LOWER prices, than their stores in disadvantaged areas. I didn't think Loblaws played these games at a single banner in a single market, but it wouldn't surprise me if they did.

                                There's also timing, of course. Few people in the GTA remember Steinberg's (once the dominant grocer in Quebec). Forty or more years ago, they had some stores that resembled Wal-Mart Supercentres - one was at Jane/Wilson and another at Scarborough Town Centre. Sam Steinberg was a food merchandising genius running a billion dollar vertically integrated business. But he could never master getting general merchandise into the stores. (He also died without a succession plan, and his three daughters squabbled the business into oblivion. I don't think the Westons will make that kind of mistake.)

                              2. re: embee

                                T&T on Cherry can be an alternate to Leslie Loblaws for certain fresh produce. Before the holidays, I needed certain fresh herbs and the Leslie Loblaws had run out of parsley for crying out loud and no sign of cilantro. I found plenty of fresh cilantro and a wide assortment of other herbs, including lemongrass, at T&T.

                                  1. re: paper_bag_princess

                                    I can't compare pricing between Loblaw's and T&T. I can say that the bells & whistles on offer at T&T make it a worthwhile trip. I have never seen steak on the regular meat shelves (not the butcher counter) of any grocery store in this city that comes close to the thick beauties there. Fresh fish, sushi on trays or a la carte, great selection of common goods and every imaginable Asian cuisine. Just awesome.

                                    1. re: paper_bag_princess

                                      Sorry, I can't answer that either, I don't do enough shopping there but from what I remember, everything seemed very reasonably priced. Even though quite busy, it was also pleasant to shop there. Lots of goods on offer, everything laid out nicely, clean and bright. Amost too many choices sometimes! I mean how can you choose from a whole aisle's length of noodles! Anyway, you might get a sense of pricing from their website -

                                      1. re: JamieK

                                        i spent my summer off trying to find the cheapest places to buy groceries. some of my findings:

                                        farmer's markets wine, obviously, but are seasonal...
                                        produce and dried mushrooms - more affordable at T&T, though produce quality questionable
                                        most dairy stuff - yogurt is most affordable at Sobey's when on sale, except Silhouette yogurt that retails for 10-20 cents less at Dominion, milk - in bags can be found at Shoppers (the newer expanded ones) for UNDER $4 - best find ever cause i drink a lot of skim!
                                        anything in cans - no frills/costco, obviously, or dominion in a pinch
                                        meat - interchangeable, though dominion sometimes has great sales on pork loins, chicken breasts, etc

                                        my searches determined that name brand stuff (cereal, ice cream) goes on sale randomly at various stores, so you have to keep an ear to the ground, and go frequently. i love it when Dominion does 2 Haagen Daaz for $10 :)

                                        other than that, the Compliments brand at Sobey's and PC stuff at Loblaws are pretty comparable product lines and price points, but the PC Blue Menu selection outweighs the Compliments Balance.

                                        what can i say? i'm a penny pincher!

                                        1. re: LemonLauren

                                          Have you checked out any of the grocery stores in Chinatown or Chinatown East? We buy all our pork and chicken in Chinatown East and save a fortune. Furthermore, produce is ridiculously cheap (especially sweet peppers and pineapples), and there are often great spur-of-the-moment deals, like a huge bag of green beans for a dollar.

                                          At Loblaws, when I get to the cash, I'm always shocked at the total when they ring up my purchases. In Chinatown, I'm also shocked, but in a pleasant way.

                                  2. re: embee

                                    I don't know that I'd qualify the experience at Queen's Quay as "superb". For the last couple of years it seems that their shelves aren't properly stocked with basics, and it seems to have grown worse in the last couple of months. Added to which, they've also just hiked their prices..

                                    1. re: Truffles

                                      That's just it. Queens Quay has generally been a well managed store with high quality - if expensive - fresh food. But Loblaw's supply chain is broken.

                                    2. I've thought of that too, but it's wishful thinking. He had his time and he did his thing, but it's someone else's turn. If they don't find that someone, I predict that the Westons will bail out. It's a public company, and they could get better investment returns someplace else.

                                      I would imagine Nichol is seventy years old or more, and he had a serious bout with cancer not long ago. Apparently Galen Weston flew him for treatment in his private jet, so they must still be friends at some level. But he may not have the passion, or even the ability, any more. Everything he did post Loblaws has been a massive flop. His only surviving product is beer, and he doesn't even like (much less drink) beer.

                                      He never needed to leave, but he got greedy. Although I worked with Loblaws for a while during his tenure, I have no inside knowledge of what he got. But the buzz was a million in salary, an unlimited expense account, and the freedom to travel anywhere, try anything, and introduce any product he desired. The other buzz was that he felt cheated out of his fair due and wanted much more. (Remember, he never did actually run Loblaws - he just ran their product development arm. Seems to me that his compensation wasn't half bad.)

                                      One of his famous lines was that he had more failed products to his credit than any food marketer in history. That kind of freedom wouldn't fly today in any public company. Another was that he was a very religious man who worshiped at the shrine of St Michael (i.e., he copied Marks & Spencer's products shamelessly). He "borrowed" more than he created, and some of his personal tastes could not possibly survive the marketplace (You call that sour? I want that SOUR!!!) The methods he used to get PC products produced on the cheap were often nasty and sometimes scandalous (personal experience speaking).

                                      Where Loblaws did originate novel products, he stole the credit from the product developers who actually did the work. You'll note that current Insiders Reports usually credit the product developers, frequently by name. If Nichol returned, most of them would probably quit.

                                      There's also the fact that while Nichol (and his dog) was the corporate face, this wasn't a one man show. Nichol created sizzle, and his passion for food was right up front. But Jim White was the real food guy, and he also wrote the early Insiders Reports. Don Watt designed the stores and packages. And none of them was responsible for Loblaws bottom line, which belonged to some very talented people who you didn't see in the ads.

                                      The guy supposedly advising Weston Jr is credited with making Wal-Mart successful in the UK. He may be a great businessman, and he may fix the supply chain issues before the company chokes. But that won't bring back the sizzle, and Wal-Mart has failed whenever they tried to emphasize factors other than low price (and they don't necessarily always have the lowest price).

                                      Paraphrasing Ed Mirvish (RIP), a management team like Loblaws had back then happens once in a lifetime - or maybe never.

                                      1. re: embee

                                        Thank you for that embee. Its truly unfortunate. To bring back part of my post that's since been edited, grocery shopping should feel like Christmas. You should get everything you want and a few surprises to boot. I miss that buzz.

                                        1. re: embee

                                          Whoa, what a post, embee. There's a biography of him out there, have you read it? I heard he was a big-ego obnoxious, but it sounds like no one could stand him but himself.

                                          1. re: merlot143

                                            Yup!!! A years ago he was brought on to do some consulting work on our private label line. About 6 months in to his contract he was turfed. He had sucessfully managed to piss off the entire executive group and made no improvements whatsoever.

                                            1. re: merlot143

                                              I didn't know that and haven't read it, but I got pretty close from time to time. I worked with some Loblaws suppliers, I knew people who actually worked for Nichol, and (for reasons I choose to keep private) I had an office at Loblaws headquarters for a couple of years.

                                            2. re: embee

                                              Many years ago I remember actually looking forward to The Insiders Report. I considered it a good read and would even make notes of things I must try. That was probably at least 10 years ago now. These days I don't even bother. It really as a shame. I use to be strictly a Loblaw's girl.

                                              1. re: millygirl

                                                However, I LOVE Jim White's writing. I was so sad when he left as food editor of the Star. He communicated such joy and enthusiasm in his work.

                                              2. re: embee

                                                Nichol and Weston were roommates at the Huron College (C. of E.) residence at UWO graduating in '63, MBA's '65. They will be about 66 years old.

                                            3. its funny that you posted this because just on sunday I had a very similar experience. I never really have a problem at the loblaws I shop at (queens quay) which is a bit of a drive for me because my neighborhood one (broadview) is a dump. But anyways, I was surprised that about 5 or 6 things I wanted were not there and all of the shelves were virtually empty. I mean, I couldnt even get soda crackers or basil of all dried spices. So we went to No frills, which also was very poorly stocked and again, I only found a few of the items I had been missing. I hope this isnt a reoccuring event

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: hungryabbey

                                                Queen's Quay is my local Loblaw's as well... it is unspectacular and expensive, but a bargain when compared to the new Sobey's at Front/Sherbourne. I will still go to the Sobey's because it is literally around the corner from my condo, is 24 hours, and has a much better selection of everything than Rabba's - the only other option in the neighbourhood. Bottom line is that for regular fresh produce, meat, and bread, the new T&T on Cherry St. is hard to beat. The St. Lawrence Market (north) on Saturday mornings is also pretty good if you can get up early.