Upscale Toronto-based grocery retailer Summerhill Market opened its third store in Toronto’s trendy, upscale Annex neighbourhood last week, and construction is already underway for a fourth location that will open next year. The retailer is known for carrying products unavailable elsewhere within the Canadian market and for owning the real estate where its stores operate.
Summerhill Market’s newest store is impressive. Located in the Annex area at 1014 Bathurst Street, the 6,000 square-foot store includes the full complement of Summerhill Market’s prepared meals and baked goods, with both a hot bar and cold salad bar. Also on offer is an expansive selection of grocery items and a variety of fresh produce.
This opening marks Summerhill Market’s third location, with an expansion to four stores planned by the spring 2020. Regarding the opening of the Annex store, Co-Owner and President Brad McMullen said, “After scouting a dozen locations for over a decade, we’re thrilled to finally be opening here on the West side. This location is central to so many great neighbourhoods and we think we’ve found the perfect spot with an adjacent parking lot to suitably serve the neighbourhood.”
The open-concept interior of the Annex store was designed by Pencil Designs, and emulates the alternative style of the Annex neighbourhood it resides in. Two twenty-foot long skylights allow natural light to flood the space and a unique artistic-inspiration of the community is conceptualized in custom-designed light fixtures and hand-woven, abstract tapestries on the walls that were crafted by Loom Studio.
The store’s mid-century modern design is seen in the pale white oak shelving and whitewashed ceilings, making for an airy atmosphere and allowing for the product packaging to bring the colour and speak for itself.
The street-level storefront has one main entrance and adjacent customer parking enough for 13 cars at any one time. “Creating convenience for our shoppers is a huge priority,” said McMullen, “we want people to be able to run in, grab a prepared meal of the highest quality, and be on their way again.”
We toured the store last week and got a glimpse of its operations, which include a basement kitchen and storage facility. The basement was excavated over the course of several months and features ceiling heights tall enough to make the space useful. The basement is serviced by an elevator as well as stairways leading to the street-level retail space.
Summerhill Market’s growing popularity is sure to stem from its commitment to providing high-grade and exclusive groceries to its customers. Scouting for the newest food trends is a large aspect of its business model and an area that often sets Summerhill Market apart from competitors. Exclusive-to-Canada brands only found in the US or Europe can be discovered in all Summerhill Market locations. Some first-to-market products include Harmless Harvest, Siggi’s Dairy, Beyond Meat, RXBar, Just Egg, Right Rice, Siete, Oatly, and Vital Proteins.
Synonymous with integrity and honesty, Summerhill Market says that it prides itself in providing clean, wholesome options using superlative ingredients. Every day over 2,000 prepared food items are made from scratch and delivered daily to each store. A culinary team consisting of more than 100 people ensure diversity within Summerhill Market’s daily offerings. Some global cuisines that can be found ready to pop in your oven are Thai and Indian, with many vegan options to ensure inclusivity for those with dietary restrictions.
In addition to finding the right, reasonably-priced real estate within Toronto, a key piece to Summerhill Market’s expansion was opening a production facility. This came to be late last year in a location just outside the city but still close enough to service its stores.
Over the years, Summerhill Market has managed to successfully service a substantial customer base despite its limited preparation space at the North Rosedale flagship store. However, this new 20,000 square-foot commissary with state-of-the-art production equipment, including a bakery, meat room, production-style kitchen, packaging area, blast chiller, storage freezer, and chilled preparation room was completed earlier this year to facilitate Summerhill Market’s growing popularity in Toronto.
Open 365 days a year and renowned for its exclusive products and high-quality prepared foods and baked goods, Summerhill Market has been in operation for 66 years. Its first store is located in Toronto’s wealthy North Rosedale area at 446 Summerhill Avenue. A second Toronto location opened in 2011 at 1054 Mount Pleasant Road. That store, again, is proximate to affluent residential areas including nearby Lawrence Park.
Spring 2020 is set to welcome Summerhill Market’s fourth location in Toronto’s Forest Hill neighbourhood. The store will be located at 484 Eglinton Avenue West and is currently under construction. McMullen said that the store will span nearly 7,500 square feet over two levels connected by an elevator. While its design is still in the planning phase, it will likely include more customer service amentities and a larger grocery offering for shoppers, along with the prepared options traditionally associated with the Market.
Owning the buildings that Summerhill Market operates in is unusual for grocery retailers – most other chains rent store spaces and are vulnerable to rent fluctuations, which pose a challenge, given slim profit margins. Summerhill Market has managed to maintain healthier margins than many competitors, though the price-point on many products is competitive with other major chains. One source informed Retail Insider that Summerhill Market had paid about $4.5-million for its new Annex location, which includes two adjacent semi-detached residential buildings that also provide parking spaces for the new store.
Mr. McMullen explained that Summerhill Market will look to future growth opportunities in the Toronto market, though it will be calculated and would involve purchasing real estate for new stores. Given that Summerhill Market primarily targets an upscale consumer, new stores will likely be located close to affluent neighbourhoods. The city of Toronto is home to various high-income neighbourhoods with pockets such as the Beaches in the East, the Kingsway in Etobicoke, and the York Mills areas of North York also being potential targets for Summerhill Market in years to come.
We’ll follow up this story in the spring when Summerhill Market opens its new two-level Forest Hill location on Eglinton Avenue.