Canada's Biggest Asian Food Chain Hits Downtown Toronto

RICHMOND, B.C. -- T & T Supermarket, Inc. here, the largest Asian supermarket chain in Canada, said this week it would open its first store in downtown Toronto this fall. The 41,000-square-foot waterfront site will be T & T's 16th store, and its fifth in greater Toronto.

Discussing the area that the new store will serve, T & T c.e.o. Cindy Lee said, "[T]he vast Port Lands will be opened to a range of development opportunities, including new urban communities and a rich infrastructure of recreation, cultural, and tourist amenities. T & T Supermarket will be part of the international convergence, bringing the enjoyment of the Asian food culture to local residents and visitors in the area."

T & T will take over a site once occupied by a Knob Hill Farm store, which closed its doors in 1999. The new store is being built on land owned by the City of Toronto Economic Development Corp. (TEDCO) and developed by Ontario real estate developer Jerry Sprackman.

"Toronto is renowned for the multicultural nature of its community," said Sprackman. "T & T is well positioned to satisfy downtown Torontonians' increasing demand for freshness and variety of ethnic foods. I believe that T & T will help to attract many new businesses to the area."

T & T c.f.o. Kam Choi told Progressive Grocer that the retailer operates upscale, highly service-oriented Asian-style supermarkets that carry a wealth of Asian products from various countries, with a particular emphasis on perimeter departments and fresh prepared foods such as steamed dim sum and sushi, but also a wide range of mainstream items as well, many of them locally sourced.

Choi compared the retailer's stores with those of Whole Foods in terms of breadth of product and ambiance, and pointed out such unique amenities at T & T as live seafood, including Alaska king crab. The company's target shopper is "a good customer who appreciates value," he noted.

When asked about future locations, Choi said the company aims to open 10 stores in the next few years, at an average of two stores per year. Last year it opened three, in addition to a major renovation and extension.

Although the retailer, based in the west, had been looking at locations all over Canada, the larger population and markets in the eastern part of the country proved a powerful draw. "Eastern Canada will definitely be our major goal in future," said Choi, who added that T & T was interested more than just Toronto.

Since opening its first store in Burnaby, B.C. in 1993, T & T has expanded across Canada, with eight locations in Greater Vancouver, two in Calgary, one in Edmonton and four in greater Toronto.
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