Shoppers at the Real Canadian Superstore along Richmond Road in Westboro are certainly aware of the ongoing renovations during the summer. Re-opening is this Thanksgiving Weekend.
What has happened, other than obvious things like replacing the gaudy “bargains here” yellow signs with more trust-appealing solid blue? Or repainting the interior from yellow to white? And more aisles of packaged carbs and sugar?
As the Friendly Giant didn’t used to say… “Look down. Look way way down.” That’s right, look at sidewalk level. The transparent windows have become untransparent. There is even less pretence that the store is a collection of smaller shops along a traditional main street. Now even the doors are blanked out.
Most of the block frontage along Richmond, the lively, pedestrian-oriented traditional main street that makes this neighbourhood so viable, has now become opaque. It might as well be a brick wall for all the liveliness it promotes.
Behind this window, merchandise racks have been shoved right up to the windows, which are treated on the interior as just another perimeter wall to hold up shelves.
It is not 100% opaque walls yet. Two recessed sections of window have been left clear. These are in front of the check out lanes. And in Joe Fresh, the bright orange back of the change rooms or storage closet or whatever it is look like there may be room to put some Merchandise Joe right in the window to be seen from outside. But overall the sidewalk face of this Loblaws is now a blight on the street.
The bike racks on the north (street) side disappeared some months ago, rusted to death. Not replaced.
At least the bench stayed half way to the bus stop. Why is it that in a city where so many bus stops are mid block, the one spot where a mid block stop might be appreciated since I suspect grocery shoppers are the main users here, and there actually is a mid-block store entrance that still works, we find a corner bus stop, as far away from the store and its doors as possible. For your enjoyment when it rains, or is minus 40 [if it isn’t minus 40 yet, when until climate change ramps up…], or its a typical hot and humid late September day.
Elderly readers might recall that when Loblaws proposed a store here, they were not allowed to build a typical big blank box at the far end of a parking lot. Instead, it faces the lively pedestrian main street, it had doors offering direct access to the eating and coffee shop (now removed), a florist shop (now removed), a wine shop (but now there is a wine dept inside the grocery aisles…), a photo processing place, each with its own sidewalk door. And outdoor tables in front of the cafe, under a sheltering glass roof (mostly abandoned).
The Potemkin row of shops along a traditional main street has now been officially turned into a blank wall.
Mind, it is not all bad news. The parking lot is being rearranged, apartments are being built along the Byron park strip, and a better pedestrian plan is being put in place so folks living to the south of the store will have better access.
And look ! nifty new bike racks out front, although the only spot my bike will fit is either of the end positions, not any of the mid-rack or between rack positions.
There is still one lightly used outdoor space on the west side of the store with a glass roof. It used for dead grocery carts and sometimes out of season merchandise. It’s a shame Galen Weston didn’t turn it into a welcoming sheltered bike and stroller parking zone. Maybe even with a working door into the store.
Is it going to far to call the new Real Canadian Superstore a real drag on Richmond Road? (Except for car shoppers, of course, they are well catered for).