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Supermartifacts / The Artifacts of National and Loblaws

[Loblaw logo] [National logo]

Loblaw Companies is Canada's largest food retailer, bar none. Loblaws formerly retailed in the US as well, operating stores both under its own name (concentrated in the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario watersheds) and that of National Tea, a Chicago grocer acquired in 1955 that once had a footprint across the entirety of the American midwest and beyond.

That National managed to squander its competitive standing is remarkable, but squander it did: The chain began paring itself back as early as the 1930s, and Loblaws was able to do little to stem the decline. In Canada, Loblaws survived by cutting overhead and introducing No Frills and other low-priced concepts, often franchised. A disproportionate number of older Loblaws stores have survived in operation by being converted to No Frills or Valu-Mart stores, giving them an extra lease of life.

Unless noted otherwise, all photos on these pages were taken by Andrew Turnbull.


National

[Loblaws store]

1806 Western Ave., Manitowoc, WI, US
2010

This unassuming storefront of two buildings cobbled together is an example of the type of retail edifice that National operated out of in its northern reaches 75 years ago. National Tea withdrew from northeast Wisconsin before the end of the 1940s, so this store never had the chance to operate for very long.

[Loblaws store]

326 E. Main St., Benton Harbor, MI, US
2016

An example of a 1950s-era store bearing National's most recognizable architecture, characterized by a flat brick pylon over the entrance. A diamond-shaped sign would have originally been attached to both sides of this.


Loblaws

I live in London, Ontario. Given the pervasiveness of Loblaws there, this section effectively serves as a capsule grocery history of the city.

[Loblaws store]

260 Dundas St., London, ON
2018

This downtown storefront in London, Ontario housed a Loblaws supermarket until the 1960s. I have a suspicion that the black and pale yellow tiling on the upper facade was also added by Loblaws, as it matches the colour scheme of their other mid-century stores.

[Loblaws store]

688 Dundas St., London, ON
2017

An early purpose-built supermarket, operating as Loblaws until the 1970s.

[Loblaws store] [Loblaws store]

407 Hamilton Rd., London, ON
1957 (London Free Press), 2018

This store opened in 1952, and is a fantastically-preserved specimen clad in yellow porcelain enamel tile. The structure was expanded after 1957 (the original west wall is still visible as an extra yellow pillar on the facade), and it operated as Loblaws until the 1970s.

[Loblaws store]

179 Wortley Rd., London, ON
2018

Opened 1950s as Loblaws; converted to Valu-Mart in the 1980s.

[Loblaws store]

234 Oxford St. E., London, ON
2018

Opened 1950s as Loblaws; converted to Valu-Mart in the 1980s.

[No Frills store]

1445 Main St., Winnipeg, MB
2015

Opened 30 Apr. 1959 as Loblaws; later Econo-Mart, Extra Foods, and No Frills.

[No Frills store]

960 Hamilton Rd., London, ON
2018

Opened 1959 as Loblaws; converted to No Frills in 1979.

[No Frills store]

150 King Edward Ave., London, ON
2018

A short-lived store that opened in the 1960s and closed in the 1970s.

[No Frills store]

1275 Highbury Ave., London, ON
2018

Opened 1970s as Loblaws; converted to No Frills in the 1980s.

[No Frills store]

1925 Dundas St., London, ON
2018

Opened ca. 1975 as Loblaws; converted to No Frills in the 1980s.

[No Frills store]

71 Dundas St. E., Paris, ON
2018

A rare appearance of the older No Frills "bananas" logo. I don't know the details about this store's provenance, but it's bound to be yet another former Loblaws location.

[No Frills store]

7 Base Line Rd. E., London, ON
2018

Opened ca. 1990 as Loblaws; converted to No Frills in 2001.

[No Frills store]

635 Southdale Rd. E., London, ON
2017

Opened 1996 as Loblaws, converted to No Frills in 2008.

[Loblaws store]

797 York St., London, ON
2018

If I'm not mistaken, this building housed a Valu-Mart store around the year 2000. It wasn't one originally, though, and I'm a little murky over the details...

[No Frills store]

599 Fanshawe Park Rd. W., London, ON
2017

Opened 2005. I believe this actually was a No Frills from day one.

[No Frills store]

925 Southdale Rd. W., London, ON
2018

Built and opened in 2010. This was also actually a No Frills from day one.


Contemporary Loblaws stores and Real Canadian Superstores

Yes, there's more to Loblaws than just No Frills and Valu-Mart. Full-service stores still exist as well, typically as "destinations" in larger population centres. Most newer Loblaws stores feature "glass house" architecture with a pitched frontal roof and a peak over the entrance, sometimes with a smaller peak for a Joe Fresh boutique at the other end. Real Canadian Superstores have a food selection similar to that of Loblaws-branded stores, but with a much larger selection of general merchandise.

This brings us up to the present...but this page is focused on artifacts from the past, not the present, so we'll end here.

[Loblaws store]

1740 Richmond St., London, ON
2017

Built in 1998.

[Loblaws store]

3040 Wonderland Rd. S., London, ON
2018

Opened in 2001. Note that the sign simply says "Loblaw," in the singular: Apparently, this is an indicator of operational differences.

[Real Canadian Superstore]

825 Oxford St. E., London, ON
2018

Opened in 2005, although the signage is more recent.

[Real Canadian Superstore]

626 Victoria St., Strathroy, ON
2018

This building lacks a peak above the entrance vestibule, but it's otherwise similar to the design of the Oxford St. Superstore.

[Real Canadian Superstore]

1201 Oxford St. W., London, ON
2018

Opened in 2006 on the former site of a Loblaws store. Conveniently, this is the one store that looks different from all the others.







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Last update 13 August 2018.