Shuttered No Frills store causes worry in Parkdale

Some Parkdale residents are suspicious their neighbourhood grocery store will fall victim to the area's rapid gentrification and be redeveloped into condominiums, which would create food insecurity in the low-income area of South Parkdale.

Loblaws says closure for roof repairs is temporary, but residents wonder if building slated for condos

Parkdale resident Deanna Miron says many residential buildings around the shuttered No Frills are home to seniors and people with disabilities who now have to travel much further for groceries. (OLIVER WALTERS/CBC)

Some Parkdale residents are concerned that their neighbourhood grocery store could fall victim to gentrification and be redeveloped into condos, which would create food insecurity in the low income area.

Vi's No Frills, the only large grocery store in the area of King Street and Jameson Avenue in South Parkdale, closed on Dec. 8, due to the need for immediate roof repairs.

Richard Krasnewych, a resident who has been shopping at the No Frills location for years, said the repairs were a long time coming.

"The stores had leaks all the time. They would have canopies set up on the ceiling," he said. 

Complimentary shuttles run every 15 minutes from the temporarily closed Vi's No Frills to the Dundas Street and Lansdowne Avenue location about 10 minutes away. (OLIVER WALTERS/CBC)
Signs on the padlocked doors say Loblaws, the parent company to the No Frills brand, was told by its landlord that the store had to close because of the urgent need for roof repairs.

Complimentary shuttle buses have been running every 15 minutes to take customers in South Parkdale to another location 10 minutes away at Dundas Street and Lansdowne Avenue.  

Kevin Groh, vice-president of corporate affairs of Loblaws, said in a statement to CBC Toronto that the company was not pleased at having to close.

"We were as disappointed as our customers when the landlord advised us of the need to temporarily close Vi's No Frills for immediate repairs to the roof," Groh said.

'We're puzzled. Like why did it really close?'

Victor Willis, executive director of the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC), is hopeful that the closure is temporary but has seen businesses cave to offers from developers before. (OLIVER WALTERS/CBC)
Some people are suspicious, however. Deanna Miron, another resident, has questions.

"We're all puzzled. Like why did it really close?"

Conversations among neighbours who ride the shuttle bus is apparently dominated by their suspicions that the space could end up in the hands of a condo developer before it ever reopens.

"Literally, I was in there one day shopping and the next day it was closed," Miron said, adding she found the sudden closure abrupt. 

Victor Willis, the executive director of the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC), a local agency, said its common areas are filled with the same suspicious chatter.

"It's all around Parkdale," Willis said.

He said he believes the concerns are valid. "Parkdale is under huge pressure from a development lens."

No No Frills creates food insecurity for residents

Loblaws maintains the closure is only temporary and expects the roof repair work to be complete in the spring. Shuttles will continue to run until it reopens. (OLIVER WALTERS/CBC)
Willis said he doesn't consider Parkdale a "food desert" without the grocery store because there are many fruit and vegetable stands not far away along Queen Street West to the north. But while the stores are physically accessible for residents, Willis said they are priced out.

"Those stores are fine if you have the money throughout the month to get good deals on produce, but if you only have your money at the beginning of the month and you don't get those good deals, it's irrelevant to you." 

Willis said area residents who rely on government assistance cheques usually need to buy frozen food and canned goods in bulk so that it lasts through the month.

"Those things aren't going to be offered at a competitive price at a local green grocer. They're really going to be at a place like No Frills. That's the gap that's now been presented to the community."

He said customers will turn to food banks more often if the store ends up being closed for a long time.

Residents pleased with shuttle service 

Kathryn Thomas says seeing the roof repairs for herself gives her hope that the store with reopen soon. (OLIVER WALTERS/CBC)

Kathryn Thomas, another resident, appreciates the service provided by Loblaws but said she doesn't know how much longer she can tolerate the ride.

"There's not really anything else within walking distance and the shuttles just turn what would be a two minute trip into an hour trip." 

Miron agrees, saying she feels for the elderly and people with disabilities who have long enjoyed the short walking distance from their apartments to the store.

"The shuttle isn't easy for them."
Peter Tomlin says he shops for two weeks' worth of groceries at a time to avoid taking the sometimes crowded shuttle too often.

Peter Tomlin, a visually impaired resident, said he finds himself buying a lot of groceries every trip to avoid having to take the sometimes crowded shuttle more often than is necessary.

"I'll shop for two weeks at a time when I'm up there," he said.

But not everyone is complaining. 

"I think it's nice," Richard Krasnewych, another resident, told CBC Toronto.

"The No Frills at Dundas and Lansdowne is much nicer!" 

Groh, meanwhile, said the company is hopeful that the repairs will be completed in the spring.