Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Grocery Store for Downtown Saskatoon

Three cheers for Saskatoon Sous Chef – providing groceries to Saskatoon’s downtown core

One of the liveliest corners in downtown Edmonton is the Sobey’s supermarket on the corner of 104th Street. It’s a convenient place to pick up lunch on a work day or to buy a few groceries on the way home from work.

Unfortunately, Saskatoon no longer has a grocery store downtown and that’s a shame, particularly for the growing number of downtown residents.

Saskatoon Sous Chef, conveniently located below the King George Hotel lofts and just down the street from the lofts in the old Bay building, is trying to fill the gap.

In addition to their wide range of salads and appetizers, Sous Chef offers meals in a bag, soup and Indian curries. They also carry ice cream from Prairie Sun Orchard, fruit yogurts from Hounjet Family Orchard and bread from Earth Bound Bakery. Not to mention coffee, jam and various other goodies (including gooey goat cheese brownies).

Saskatoon’s first grocery stores
Saskatoon had at least one downtown grocery store, and often more, from 1922 to 2004. They were often attached to large department stores.

In 1916, Eaton’s opened a large mail order outlet in Saskatoon, and in 1922 it was expanded to include a groceteria and a showroom. Eaton’s started construction of its retail store at 3rd Avenue and 21st Street in 1928. This was the largest basement excavation of the time. Over 100 men, 40 teams, trucks and a Northwest shovel took a month to complete the excavation.

The new store housed Saskatoon’s first elevator, an art gallery, a fur salon and the elegant Algerian Room restaurant on the third floor. The basement was dedicated to the groceteria and luncheonette. The butcher shop had an 80-foot marble counter.

In 1941, the grocery store and luncheonette moved into the newly-constructed Foodateria on the north side of the building, where Extra Foods used to be located.

In more recent years, a Safeway was located beside the Bay until it closed in 1984. And there was a Dominion supermarket in Midtown Plaza until the chain was dismantled in the mid-1980s.

Saskatchewan’s own OK Economy
An OK Economy set up shop on the corner of 23rd Street and 2nd Avenue (the current location of Pharmasave) in 1938.

The OK Economy was a Saskatchewan chain of grocery stores started by the Schellenberg family. The Schellenbergs were European Mennonites who had moved to Osler, Saskatchewan, in 1912. They changed their name to Shelly to give themselves a more Canadian identity.

In 1925, they took a trip to research the Loblaws grocery stores in Eastern Canada, which ran on a cash, self-service basis. The OK Economy would follow similar principles as the Shellys opened 5 grocery stores in small towns north of Saskatoon. By 1929 there were 26 stores, including one in Saskatoon. The chain would later serve as a wholesaler for other Saskatchewan grocery stores.

Extra Foods, Saskatoon’s last downtown supermarket, closed on October 9, 2004. Saskatoon Sous Chef is working to fill the gap.

Photo Credit: A1500, Local History Room, Saskatoon Public Library

See Also:
     Urban Development in Edmonton
     Prairie Sun Orchard
     Earth Bound Bakery


Bonnie Zink said...

With all the condo conversions and increased residential living space in downtown Saskatoon, I'm am surprised that a grocery store has not set up shop.

Centrally located and easily accessed food would be beneficial. People would automatically reduce their reliance on cars and lead a healthier lifestyle as they could walk to pick up their groceries.

All in all, sounds like a win for everyone to me.

Stephanie V said...

Interesting history of the demise of the downtown grocery store. Here, new grocery stores are one of the first signs that a location has attracted residents who need food.
I'm surprised too but full marks to Sous Chef for filling a need. And doing it with such beautiful colors and, tastiness. Better than a grocery store - no need to cook!