Edmonton-based grocer Italian Centre Shop is growing beyond its Edmonton home base. Early next month, it will open its first Calgary location, and it's looking to a number of Canadian markets for potential expansion. We spoke with the company's President, Teresa Spinelli, to learn more on her plans to grow the popular retailer.
Italian Centre Shop was founded by Ms. Spinelli's father, Frank, in Edmonton in 1959. The small store initially carried Italian magazines, pop and chocolate and due to shopper requests, it expanded to become a grocery store. It became more than just a grocery store, however, as locals came to view it as a place to gather and socialize. The single, successful location eventually grew to three Edmonton stores, and the company is now a major retailer, wholesaler and distributor of specialty imports, grocery and fresh produce to stores and restaurants throughout Western Canada. Each store features a café as well as grocery, deli and bakery departments.
On July 2, Italian Centre Shop's first Calgary store will open to the public. Located in the city's southeast suburbs, the 18,000 square foot store could be the first of two Calgary locations, according to Ms. Spinelli. Italian Centre stores are generally in the 12,000 square foot to 18,000 square foot range and Ms. Spinelli says that the company has its sights on a number of places, provided that the "right opportunities" become available. Ms. Spinelli mentioned that longer-term, she is considering opening locations Alberta cities such as Red Deer and Grande Prairie, as well as in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Further into the future, Ms. Spinelli indicated that a national expansion is a possibility for the retailer, though because it doesn't franchise, growth will be limited and dictated by opportunity.
Last fall, rumour had it that Italian Centre Shop would replace the downtown Edmonton Sobeys grocery store, which had closed its location at 104 Street and Jasper Avenue. Ms. Spinelli said that although her company examined the retail space, the "the numbers didn't work" and she decided against opening there. The 18,900 square foot retail space continues to be available for sublease.