Food & Drink

Winning team— Toronto


A former sporting arena has been reborn in the centre of Toronto as the flagship store of Canadian supermarket Loblaws. The city’s traditional home of ice hockey now houses fresh produce. Monocle went to see if the crowds still come.

Food, Landini Associates, Loblaws, Organic, Toronto

Few things are as seared into the Canadian national psyche as ice hockey – it’s a pastime, a point of international pride, and as close to a unifying cultural identifier as you can get in the country. So when Toronto’s landmark Maple Leaf Gardens arena was bought up by grocery store chain Loblaws in 2004, residents of the city paid close attention.

Though the arena had been out of use for over a decade, with the Maple Leafs hockey team upgrading to the larger Air Canada Centre, the Gardens remained an icon for Toronto. As a result, its transfor…

Why it works

  1. Reusing character: Subtle references to the building’s past – such as reusing the font from the arena’s seats for store signage – gives a sense of place.
  2. Committed cooks: Executive chef Mark Russell cooks up restaurant-quality cuisine suited to the clientele, constantly evolving.
  3. Embracing variety: Specialist ingredients usually designated to “foreign” aisles are integrated instead, reflecting a clued-up, international customer.
  4. Reversing the layout: Customers are invited in by cafés and fresh produce, instead of rows of checkouts.
  5. Knowing their stuff: Speciality counters and shop-in-shops have staff who know what they’re talking about.

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