The Andrew Turnbull Network

presents

Supermartifacts / The Artifacts of Loblaws

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

[Zehrs logo]

The classic "fat Z" logo of the 1970s and 1980s. No longer in use on any store, naturally...

Loblaws' branding in Canada is nothing if not complicated. In southwest Ontario, their history is intertwined with that of Zehrs...a local Kitchener grocer that was acquired by the company in 1963. Zehrs managed to maintain a modicum of autonomy within Loblaws with distinct and visually-consistent store designs, and some of these are explored below.

In the 1970s, the parent company began consolidating their presence in cities under one brand or the other...resulting in the proliferation of Zehrs stores throughout southwest Ontario (except in London, where the Loblaws brand was studiously maintained). Until the 1980s, Zehrs also had a "sub-subsidiary" called Gordons that operated in "almost Michigan" markets such as Chatham and Windsor.

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


1950s-1980s Zehrs stores

[Zehrs store]

100 Highland Rd. W., Kitchener, ON
2019

The Zehr family's first grocery store was housed in this small and inauspicious building, and opened in 1950. For several years, this was the only Zehrs store in existence. By 1960 Zehrs had expanded to three locations in Waterloo and Kitchener.

[Zehrs store]

696 Belmont Ave. W., Kitchener, ON
2019

As you might expect, the goldmine for potential Zehrs artifacts gets deeper the closer you are to Kitchener. This store operated from 1960 (or earlier) to the early 1980s, and features a street-flush alignment and period fieldstone accents that remain intact on the facade. I believe it's been expanded a bit on the left.

[Zehrs store]

835 Queen St., Chatham, ON
2019

This store opened in the early 1980s under the Gordons name, and stands on the site of a predecessor Loblaws store that operated until the 1970s. Converted to No Frills in the 2000s.

[Zehrs store]

1515 King St. E., Cambridge, ON
2019

This storefront is punctuated by small windows identical to those on the Chatham store, so it goes without question that it dates to the same era. Originally a Zehrs Market; converted to No Frills in 2015.

[Zehrs store]

360 Caradoc St. S., Strathroy, ON
2019

And here's yet another example of a small-windowed Gordons/Zehrs building from the 1970s or early 1980s! This one even has the original natural brickwork visible.

[Zehrs store]

4136 Petrolia Line, Petrolia, ON
2019

Although this supermarket is branded under the Your Independent Grocer franchise banner (and it's been retrofitted with a version of the current Loblaws "glass peak" facade), I have a strong suspicion that it was originally a Gordons/Zehrs store.

[Zehrs store]

59 Mill St. E., Tilbury, ON
2019

Confirmed as a former Zehrs (and most likely, former Gordons) location.

[Zehrs store]

345 Notre Dame St., Belle River, ON
2019

Might be a former Zehrs and former Gordons location. (Seriously...I know there was a Gordons in Belle River in the 1980s, and I can't think of any site it could have been other than here.)


Contemporary Zehrs stores

Zehrs stores feature unique architecture that differs from that of other Loblaws banners. The bulk of newer stores in operation seem to fall into three broad styles: The "Twin Towers" type, the "Orange Wall" type, and the "Canopy" type.


The "Twin Towers" type

Most if not all of these stores were branded as "Zehrs Food Plus" in the past, and the peaked towers may have been a part of the Food Plus identity. Most are now branded as "Zehrs Great Food," whatever that means. (Do Zehrs stores without the tagline sell lousy food?)

[Zehrs store]

7201 Tecumseh Rd. E., Windsor, ON
2019

A Zehrs store opened on this site by 1990; however, the building as it is today likely owes its appearance to a renovation or rebuild into the Zehrs Food Plus format in the late 1990s.

[Zehrs store]

5890 Malden Rd., Windsor, ON
2019

A store offering much the same story as the last: A Zehrs opened on this site by 1990, and the building has probably changed quite a bit over the years since.

[Zehrs store]

400 Manning Rd., Tecumseh, ON
2019

The towers on this one seem a little taller than normal.

[Zehrs store]

865 Ontario St., Stratford, ON
2019

Opened at some point after 1997. It bears the "Great Food" tagline that's also appeared on Loblaws stores over the last decade or so, and replaced an 1980s store closer to the city centre.

[Real Canadian Superstore]

600 Murphy Rd., Sarnia, ON
2018

Opened in the late 1990s as Zehrs Food Plus; converted to Real Canadian Superstore by 2011. Which explains why it looks everything like a Zehrs, and nothing like a Superstore.


The "Orange Wall" type

I think these stores may be newer than the "Twin Towers" type. Then again, maybe they're not. I never can tell with Zehrs.

[Zehrs store]

1150 6th St. E, Owen Sound, ON
2019

[Zehrs store] [Zehrs store]

969 Dundas St., Woodstock, ON
2019

Opened as Zehrs Food Plus in the late '90s. Small signs bearing an earlier version of the Zehrs logo still stand by the parking lot entrance.


The "Canopy" type

[Zehrs store]

400 Simcoe St., Tillsonburg, ON
2019

This building features dark-coloured "panels" on the facade with contrasting vertical stripes, similar to those on Real Canadian Superstores.

[Zehrs store]

600 Mitchell Rd. S., Listowel, ON
2019

One more column under the canopy, but otherwise you'd be hard-pressed to notice any difference between this and the Tillsonburg store. I often find myself driving through Zehrs' trade area at night...


Still other types

[Real Canadian Superstore]

2430 Dougall Ave., Windsor, ON
2019

Originally Zehrs Food Plus; converted to the Superstore banner in 2008. But that's not all that's strange: Doesn't the ceiling line look unusually low? This is also the only Zehrs or Superstore I've seen sharing a canopy with an adjacent retail tenant.

[Zehrs store]

297 Eramosa Rd., Guelph, ON
2018

This store was extensively remodelled in the early 2010s, and if anything it's reflective of where store designs have progressed. Note the appearance of the Loblaws "L" logo on the facade.

[Zehrs store]

123 Pioneer Park, Kitchener, ON
2019

This store is as new as it gets, having opened 24 Aug. 2018 on the site of an older Zehrs. That previous store had opened in 1977, and until 2018 it was the last store in the chain still bearing the "fat Z" logo seen at the top of this page. I couldn't get a picture of it in time. *sniff*







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Last update 26 August 2019.