Popular Toronto-based grocery retailer Longo's reached a milestone this month, celebrating 60 years in business. According to spokesperson Roseanne Longo, the retailer plans to continue expanding beyond the GTA as well as explore opportunities for more downtown Toronto locations.
The family-run grocery chain was founded in Toronto by brothers Tommy, Joe, and Gus Longo in 1956, with its first location at the intersection of Yonge Street and Castlefield Avenue. Eight family members worked in the 2,000 square foot store. More locations subsequently opened and in 2004, Longo's acquired Grocery Gateway, providing it the largest online grocery retail presence in Canada. Longo's corporate office is now in Vaughan, just north of Toronto.
The retailer owns and operates 29 stores in the Greater Toronto Area, ranging from smaller urban locations to larger suburban stores. Some of its stores are very unique -- its Leaside store, which hosted the company's 60th anniversary event last week, is in a restored circa 1919 heritage building, recently named one of the world's 25 'must visit' supermarkets by Canadian Grocer Magazine. In the fall of 2010, Longo's opened a 48,000 square foot flagship at Toronto's Maple Leaf Square, adjacent to busy Union Station and the Air Canada Centre sports facility. Longo's also operates five smaller 'market' stores, located in densely populated areas in central Toronto. We recently profiled its stunning looking Imperial Plaza location on St. Clair Avenue, which features dramatic high ceilings and heritage accents.
Moving forward, Ms. Longo explained that the company is growing beyond the Greater Toronto Area due to customer requests/demand. This fall, Longo's will open a store in Ancaster, and in early 2017 it will open stores in Guelph and Ajax. The retailer will also investigate opportunities to open further smaller locations in Toronto's central core, particularly given projections that its population will almost double from 250,000 to 475,000 residents within the next 25 years.
Ms. Longo explained how the retailer differentiates itself from competitors. Produce is a focus for Longo's stores, making up the biggest footprint in its market locations along with a visible kitchen area to welcome visitors. Convenience and prepared foods are key, and most Longo's locations now also feature in-store Starbucks locations. Customer service is also paramount, and is part of the family feeling that the company attempts to create for its roughly 5,000 (and growing) employees. It's a family affair that will continue as a third generation moves into roles at the company.