No Frills In The St. Lawrence Market


6 minute read

March 9, 2011

I’ve been living in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood now for four years, and in that time the number of grocery stores has tripled!

Some people have told me that they think the presence of No Frills will actually diminish the overall allure of the SLM area, but I’m of the mindset that this only goes to further prove that the area is booming, and is ripe to take over King West as the downtown ‘hot spot’ within two years…

Yesterday, I walked into the new No Frills on Front Street near Princess, and it was pleasantly surprising experience.

Let me give you a little bit of background, if I may…

I consider myself to be “good with money.”  I don’t mean that  I’m cheap, but rather I’m not in any way wasteful, ,and yet I still enjoy all that life has to offer.

I’m a regular shopper at Winner’s, although once in a while I’ll treat myself to some off-the-rack wares at one of Toronto’s many over-priced clothing jaunts.

And when it comes to food, I have broken it down into a science.

Food is likely the one thing that we purchase every single day of our lives, and thus I feel it’s the easiest to purchasing system to streamline.

Costco serves the needs of your large, infrequent items and household products.  Toilet paper, kleenex, paper towel, bottled water, Dove soap, laundry/dishwasher detergent, frozen chicken, frozen vegetables, frozen fish, bulk meats, cheese, and jumbo sized anything!

No Frills serves the needs of your boxed, bottled, and canned goods that you stock on a regular basis.  Crackers, cereal, soup, sauces, juice, etc.

Metro or Sobey’s serves the needs of your fresh items.  Milk, bread (although I often get both of these at Costco/No Frills), fruit, vegetables, and anything fresh.

In Thomas J. Stanley’s best-selling book, “The Millionaire Mind,” his research shows that over 50% of American millionaires shop in bulk at a price club like Costco or Sam’s.

How can you argue with that?

I go to Costco about once every six weeks to replenish my supplies.  It’s not a time-killing expedition, and it saves me a ton of money.

I go to No Frills about once per month.

I go to Sobey’s 3-4 times per week.

If you were to take an “average” can of soup from Loblaw’s Superstore on Lower Jarvis Street (one of the most expensive grocery stores downtown) that costs $1.79, I’m almost certain that this same can of soup would be $0.99 in many No Frills stores.

Imagine cutting  your grocery bill 50% every year?

Consider groceries to be just one of those essential purchases like gasoline, cell phone, etc.  So imagine paying $0.55/litre for gas for the entire year?  Wouldn’t you go slightly out of your way to do that?

If I could offer a single piece of advice to people who complain that they have no money, it would be this: “Don’t buy your lunch every day.”  A friend of mine works downtown and buys Subway or Quizno’s every day, and takes breaks 1-2 times to buy a large Coca-Cola.  He likely spends $12.00 every day on food and beverage, and over $250 per month.  He works at a job that pays him hourly, and suffice it to say that he is in the demographic of people that never get out of the rental rut, and never get “ahead” in life.

You can buy a case of water or Coca-Cola at Costco and likely save 70% off what you pay for a single bottle in a variety store.

But enough about saving money.  I’ll leave that for the “guru” in Tuesday’s Globe and Mail

When I moved into the St. Lawrence Market area in early 2007, there was only ONE grocery store in the neighbourhood.  It was the Dominion on Front Street in the base of the old condominium – 80 Front Street.

It served its need, but I felt like it was over-priced and it didn’t have a very good selection of “ready made” items for people like me who might prefer to pickup a roast chicken for dinner one night after getting home at 9PM.

This Dominion store was easily walkable from my condo, but more than 6-8 bags of groceries made for some sore forearms once I treked the 600 meters home.

The Loblaw’s Superstore on Lower Jarvis was much bigger, but this was too far to walk and thus it meant either dragging the car out for a short trip or heading there straight after work, which nobody ever likes doing when home is soooooo much closer!

I also found this Loblaw’s to be absolutely packed, and I hated fighting people for parking spaces so I could go upstairs and over-pay for items in what was supposed to be a “Super Store.”  It sure was super, if you liked 40% mark-ups…

The Rabba’s Fine Foods on Front Street at Sherbourne never really held up as a “grocery store” in my mind.  It’s a great place to buy gum, cigarettes, and bags of chips, but you’re not shopping for cereal and produce there any more often than you did at your childhood corner store that had the same set of hair-curlers on the wall since they opened “Alpha One Milk & Variety” back in 1972.

So up until 2009, I would periodically stop in at grocery stores throughout the city and pick up items to leave in the back seat of my car all day.  The thought of coming home and walking down to Dominion on Front Street (I’m not lazy – it’s just a bit of a trek with arms full of groceries!) didn’t appeal to me in the winter, or summer for that matter.

But alas, Sobey’s soon came to the rescue as they opened a location on Front Street in between Princess and Sherbourne at the end of 2009, or early 2010…I’m not entirely sure.

I was somewhat unfamiliar with the Sobey’s chain.  I had only ever seen them in Waterloo where I used to drive my brother and his fellow car-less friends to get groceries whenever I popped by Wilfred Laurier.  Growing up, it was all Dominion, all the time.

The presence of this Sobey’s changed the way I bought groceries and thus how I ate.  This store is literally a one-minute walk from my door.  It’s funny because sometimes I’ll stop off on my way home after work, wearing a full suit and a topcoat if it’s winter.  And sometimes at 11PM, I’ll throw on baggy jogging pants and runners with the laces pre-tied over the tongue, and I’ll complete the ghetto look with an XL fleece hoody.  People will walk out of my way because I look like ‘trouble.’

This Sobey’s is about 220-yards away, or a 4-iron, for those of you who are already in training for the links (I think we’re shooting for end-April with this weather…).

The prices at Sobey’s are somewhat average, but as I said before, I buy 90% of my goods at Costco and No Frills, and I use Sobey’s for fresh food, ready-made meals when I’m on the go, and odds and ends when I run out.

A few months ago, it was announced that No Frills would be opening a location on Front Street, at Princess, kiddie-corner from Sobey’s.

This is all great news, right?

No more having to drive to Parliament and Gerrard to No Frills!  Don’t forget your quarter for the buggy!

But one of my clients who was looking to purchase a condo in the area asked me if I thought the presence of No Frills, which is a “discount” grocer that usually attracts the lower demographic, would somehow lessen the overall opinion and stature of the neighbourhood as it transitions into “upscale” living.

To be honest, the thought had never crossed my mind.

Would you speculate that the new No Frills was brought in to service the residents of the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood who shop at Sobey’s or Metro?  Or to attract the people who live in the c0-ops south of Front Street?

I think it’s a simple case of “the more the merrier.”

You can’t really have “too many” grocery stores, and the St. Lawrence Market area has more grocery stores than any other residential pocket downtown.  If you like on King West, where do you buy your food?  You likely drive to the Metro in Liberty Village, but what did you do before that?

Competition is a good thing in any industry, and the new No Frills will surely keep Metro and Sobey’s on their toes!  It won’t necessarily lower prices, but competition will definitely help improve the overall “value” of the stores via pricing, service, selection, hours, cleanliness, and something that every store loves to brag about these days – freshness.

I never really considered purchasing produce from No Frills until I walked into the new location yesterday and it was as if everything was in pristine condition!  You’re accustomed to picking up a head of lettuce and seeing nothing but DIRT, however the produce in this location was of the same quality as Sobey’s or Metro.

There wasn’t a single box out of place on any of the shelves, and the eleven checkout lanes had eleven cashiers, most of whom were just waiting!

This new No Frills location is essentially in mint condition, and Sobey’s and Metro will have to work even harder to keep their clientele.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now: the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood is the best residential area in the downtown core.  There’s a giant new ScotiaBank opening up on King Street in the base of East Lofts, and the area continues to boom with commerce.

It’s times like this that I wish I owned more real estate in the area….but I digress…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

Find Out More About David Read More Posts

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  1. Graham

    at 8:31 am

    You’re right, more grocery stores the better. And don’t forget you have the actual market right there in case you need some expensive cheese or a peameal bacon sandwich.

    Also, when the LCBO and the Dollarama open beside the No Frills, it will be even easier to get everything you need. Just think David, no more walking up to the Dollarama at Queen and Sherbourne. You won’t even have to look over your shoulder anymore to see if a meth head is getting ready to stab you.

    Site plan:

  2. Spose

    at 8:57 am

    I’ve been hearing for over a year that an LCBO will be coming to the area as well. I had also heard that someone was trying to consolidate a couple of the ground-level retail units in 230 King to accomodate a bank branch (perhaps the Scotia opening in East Lofts)…all positive developments for an area that is still underdeveloped -lots of old commercial buildings could be repurposed, parking lots which will eventually become condos…

  3. buk

    at 10:51 am

    how many no frills do you see in forest hill, yorkvillle or rosedale? i bet if a no frills opened up in king west you’d slam the area and blog that it’s on the downfall.

    so SLM has a few grocery stores, a scotiabank and overpriced furniture stores selling made in china. how can you say it’s better than king west? great restaurants? no. bars/lounge? no. the area has great potential, but to say it’s on par with king west is simply not true.

  4. meow

    at 12:15 pm

    No Frills in my opinion is a bit dicey. All that yellow….not too upscale. But Dollarama? ….. Forget about it! That is ghetto… come on….

  5. moonbeam!

    at 12:23 pm

    I’m a No-Frills fan! If you check the weekly flyers, you’ll find No Frills has amazing specials that make a visit very worthwhile! It also has rock-bottom prices on many items that you’d buy anyway. What it lacks compared to other supermarkets is: deli, bakery, meat counter, and variety of items. But no matter how posh your neighbourhood is, good bang for your buck is always welcome…

  6. moonbeam!

    at 12:27 pm

    @Meow — what a snob! have fun wasting your money! Dollarama offers great bang for your buck. Go ahead & pay $10 for your duct tape and wrapping paper Dollarama sells for a buck!

  7. Joe Q.

    at 12:42 pm

    how many no frills do you see in forest hill, yorkvillle or rosedale?

    There’s a No Frills at the edge of Hillcrest Village at Alberta Ave and St Clair West, and another one on Avenue Road at Melrose.

  8. Pena

    at 12:47 pm

    that’s a big 4-iron…………must be with the wind!

  9. David Fleming

    at 2:37 pm

    @ Pena

    Michael? Michael, is that you?

    Don’t let your man-beard get in the way of your backswing when you’re swinging that driver!

    See you on the course.

  10. buk

    at 3:24 pm

    @joe Q

    thanks for the tip but neither of those locations are in forest hill. st. james town is also on the edge of rosedale. what’s your point?

  11. Edmonton Real Estate Blog

    at 3:31 pm

    In my opinion, we need to follow your guys’ foot steps and get more grocery stores in E-Town. Some areas are truly lacking. =

  12. Craig

    at 4:58 pm

    King West is well serviced by Kensington Market – a 15 minute walk for most or a couple of mins in the car. It’s easily the cheapest in town for fresh fruit and veggies. In addition, there are 4 butchers, 3 fish mongers, 3 cheese shops, 2 bakeries and countless other shops which feature food from all over. Between shops you can chill out with the best coffee in Toronto and people watch or listen to the live music that comes from all corners.
    In Summertime, there are at least 3 farmer’s markets all in the King West area. I live a stone’s throw away from the Metro in Liberty Village but will chose any of these many other options any day.

  13. Princess Clara

    at 5:26 pm

    What.. Is no frills the new coffee time or something? Give me a break. Haha

  14. FW

    at 7:35 pm

    In my opinion it really depends on how the No Frills is run. I have seen well-managed No Frills, such as the ones in Dufferin Mall and Steeles & Markham road, that are as good as a Loblaw or Sobeys if not better. Others that are not operated properly, could really diminish the overall allure of the area. I certainly hope the one in SLM will be managed properly.

  15. Kyle

    at 9:04 pm

    These supermarkets do a tonne of research and analysis on any potential location, before they choose to set up. If No Frills were the only supermarket option, then that might not be a good thing from a real estate perspective, but having a whole gamut of choices at your door step is probably a positive in my opinion.

    I live in Roncy Village close to a No Frills, Sobey’s Express, Loblaws and many small green grocers. Judging from the real estate value increases in the last few years, i would say the No Frills has definitely not held the neighbourhood back.

  16. Clifford

    at 12:05 am

    Call me “ghetto” (what does that even mean?)…but I welcome No Frills and Dollarama to the area. The Sobey’s on Front is overpriced and rarely has more than 2 registers open. I guess the one thing I dislike is the ugly parking lot…not that big of a deal though.

  17. Matt

    at 11:01 am

    People obviously don’t know where food prices will be going (should global growth continue).

    Food inflation is just taxing to the runway. I imagine, by the time it takes flight, everyone will be shopping at No Frills.

    And as for the St. Lawrence Market… There’s no way that market will be able to handle future population along that strip.

  18. meow

    at 5:49 pm


    Maybe you didn’t understand what this post was about…..Just incase you aren’t aware, this blog is called “torontorealtyblog” not “torontoducttapeblog”.
    With that said, I can understand going to a dollarama to purchase duct tape. It doesn’t mean I want to buy property there. If you purchase real estate the same way you purchase duct tape, then I heard there is some cheap real estate near Jane and Finch you might be interested in.

  19. Patrick

    at 10:30 am


    You are confusing “price” and “value”. The two are not necessarily interchangable.

    Get a dictionary and look them up.

  20. Dave

    at 12:29 pm

    The Front St. Sobeys is a joke. There are never more than 2 cashiers open, and their prices are through the roof!

    Hopefully the new No Frills will make the Sobeys earn their customers now instead of taking them for granted.

    1. David Fleming

      at 1:09 pm

      @ Dave

      I agree about the Sobey’s – I only go there for convenience to get fresh items. Their service is a joke. Two weeks ago, I was standing in a lineup that was sixteen people deep, as there were two cashiers open and the other line had ten people, but it was the “regular” line for more than 16 items. I took a photo of the lineup on my BB and sent it to customer service. I did not hear back.

      I rarely buy anything from that Sobey’s other than fruits/vegetables, so I’m not sure about their prices. I’m sure they’re a huge markup to that of the new No Frills across the street!

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