Hundreds of people flooded Ottawa's first T&T Asian supermarket on its opening day, overflowing into a line that snaked toward the parking lot.
Some said they had waited since 7 a.m. so they could surge inside when the new 51,000 square-foot store at Hunt Club Road and Riverside Drive in Ottawa's south end welcomed its first customers at 10:30 a.m.
Carter Chin, Justin Ngo and Shirley Huang arrived more than two hours early, hoping to get one of the $10 gift cards being handed out to the first 200 people in the store. They said they were "super-excited" when they heard the store was coming to Ottawa.
"It's awesome. It sells everything, right? Like sushi and dim sum — everything you can get in a grocery store," Huang said. Previously, she said, she and her friends would make the long trip to the T&T in Toronto if they wanted to buy Asian foods.
The new store, which stocks a wide variety of Asian and Western groceries, was the 18th location to open in the popular chain, which was recently bought by Loblaw. The store includes a live seafood section, counters that sell a variety of Asian takeout and a Chinese bakery.
Lobster sold out
The sprawling store was at capacity soon after opening, and people had to line up outside, as crowds of Asian Canadians continued to spill out of OC Transpo buses and family cars while police directed traffic in and out of the parking lot. Within 90 minutes, the store was sold out of 1,000 kilograms of lobster. By 4 p.m., a line still snaked around the back of the building. Store managers expected to serve 10,000 customers over the course of the day.
Yvonne Gu arrived in the morning and headed for the barbecue duck. She says with the new T&T, she won't need to shop in Chinatown as much.
"T&T is very famous in the Chinese community. And we know the shopping environment is better than other Chinese supermarkets," Gu said, indicating that she finds it bigger, cleaner and more organized than stores in Chinatown.
But Eddie So, who owns an herbal shop in Chinatown called Ping Fat Lee, said he thinks Wednesday's crowds at the new store were just attracted the grand opening giveaways and the flashiness of something new.
"They always come back to Chinatown," he said, noting that T&T doesn't offer a restaurant or other gathering place. "Chinatown has a little bit different kind of atmosphere."