Toronto

Supermarket re-opening on Coxwell will provide relief to east-end 'food desert'

Rocca’s No Frills on Coxwell Avenue will have its grand re-opening on Dec. 5. The store’s sudden closing three years ago left area residents without an affordable grocery store they could easily get to.

Rocca's No Frills will re-open Dec. 5, more than 3 years after closing suddenly for repairs

Crews are putting the finishing touches on Rocca's No Frills before its grand re-opening on Dec. 5. 'Having a grocery store close by really improves quality of life and the vitality of the neighbourhood,' says Beaches-East York Coun. Brad Bradford. (John LeSavage/ CBC)

An east-end supermarket will have its grand re-opening on Dec. 5., providing relief to area residents who've been without an affordable neighbourhood grocery store for more than three years.

Loblaw Companies Limited, which owns Rocca's No Frills, closed the store on Coxwell Avenue near Gerrard Street East on May 11, 2016 for urgent repairs.

"The community was really shocked when it closed. It was abrupt and there was no warning," said Coun. Brad Bradford, who represents Ward 19, Beaches-East York.

"I've heard from the community continuously. When I go out to events, people are always asking ... 'When is the store coming back?'"

The store was expected to re-open last fall, but construction and renovations took longer than expected, with most of the structure having to be demolished and rebuilt.

"Like a lot of construction projects, you go into an old building to do a renovation and once you begin, you start to realize the extent of the work that's necessary," Bradford said.

Bradford will be joining store owner John Rocca at the grand opening on Thursday, which will take place at 7:30 a.m.

Much of the original structure had to be demolished and rebuilt, delaying the re-opening by over a year. (John LeSavage/ CBC)

No Frills has a long history in Toronto's east end. The first store opened in July 1978 in East York.

"Having an 18,000-square-feet store come back, it's certainly going to be a big win for the Gerrard and Coxwell area," Bradford said.

Few affordable options

Neil Hetherington, CEO of Daily Bread Food Bank, says according to its Who's Hungry report, the area experiences "a tremendous divide over the haves and have-nots."

The area has also been referred to as a "food desert," an area that has few large, affordable grocery stores.

The next closest No Frills is on Carlaw Avenue, about a 10 minute drive away.

"But for an individual with food insecurity, that can take quite some time and be [costly] to get to if they're taking public transit," Hetherington said.

To lessen the impact, Loblaw Companies has been running a free shuttle from the Rocca's No Frills location to Dave & Charlotte's No Frills on Carlaw Avenue since the closure. The last day of the shuttle will be on Dec. 4.

Hetherington will be at the re-opening Thursday to receive a donation of much-needed items from Rocca's, including high-protein foods like peanut butter and canned tuna.

"Everyone deserves to have access to great meals," Hetherington said.

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