The new Sobeys Urban Fresh store at Metcalfe and Lisgar, whose grand opening was held on May 22, fills a much-needed gap in the grocery shopping options for the area.
“You know what, the downtown core has been screaming for this for years. Even my staff who live in this area have come to me and said, ‘You know, we’ve been waiting so long, we’re so happy to be here,'” said store manager John Leblanc.
The 20,000 square-foot store, designated an Urban Fresh as it is slightly smaller than a full-size store, carries a full line of products including a noodle bar, a sushi bar, and a café that can be accessed from the street without walking through the store proper. The company partnered with Jamie Oliver to offer grilling tips, food advice, and some of Oliver’s branded cookware.
A group of people gathered for the opening, with residents welcoming the store’s convenient downtown location. The first person in the line to enter the new store was local resident Dane Atkinson, who arrived before 6 a.m.
“This is a lot closer commute from my home than, say, Hartman’s would be,” he said.
Leblanc, along with many Urban Fresh employees, welcomed everyone to the opening and talked about some features of the store.
“Thank you all for coming out to help celebrate on this special day. It’s special because this is the first Sobeys Urban Fresh outside of Toronto and in our nation’s capital. Designed with the urban shopper in mind, we have taken some of the best elements of our full-service format stores such as in-store experts like our cheese ambassador and wellbeing counsellors and made them available right here in downtown Ottawa,” he said.
The wellbeing counsellor is a registered dietician who customers can consult about products the store carries to meet their dietary requirements. She plans to give educational seminars on topics like gluten-free foods, and said she also takes suggestions on brands and types of foods the store will purchase.
MP for Ottawa Centre Paul Dewar said the store provides 145 jobs and its location is much appreciated.
“This place here is welcome because many people are calling this area a food desert. It was really difficult to get food, so I couldn’t be happier. It is so important that we have places to shop … and this is a welcome addition to our vibrant centre of town,” Dewar said.
“One of the reasons that we live in the downtown core is so we can be close to everything important instead of driving to a major grocery store outside the downtown core. So this Sobeys is very welcome,” said MPP Yasir Naqvi.
Naqvi thanked Leblanc and his team for helping the Ottawa Food Bank.
Mayor of Ottawa Jim Watson and councillor Catherine McKenney walked over from city hall to attend the opening and present the store manager with a certificate.
“John, on behalf of Catherine and I, I would like to welcome you to the neighbourhood. We’re really proud of Sobeys. To the residents here, you’ve got a great new neighbour,” Watson said.
Leblanc presented a $2,500 donation to Michael Maidment, executive director of the Ottawa Food Bank, which will be issued as gift cards. Maidment explained that he grew up on the east coast, where Sobeys originated, and that his father worked for Sobeys at one point. He talked about the needs of the Ottawa Food Bank.
“We feed just over 50,000 people every single month. So our intent with these gift cards is to provide them to families so they can use those gift cards to come and purchase fresh vegetables,” said Maidment.
A ribbon-cutting officially opened the store and ended the presentations. Residents in a now much longer line were given a reusable shopping bag and a gift card as they entered the new store.