'Refrigerator in our backyard': Some Saskatoon shoppers in limbo as Safeway stores to close for renos
SASKATOON -- People living in three Saskatoon neighbourhoods may need to find a new grocery store starting in March.
For shoppers such as Joel Bustamante, the Safeway on 33rd Street couldn't be more convenient.
"I call it our refrigerator in our backyard because it is just so easy to get groceries, mostly in the winter when we needed stuff," he said.
Bustamante lives steps away from the Mayfair store and goes grocery shopping there roughly three times a week.
"We thought it was a plus for this neighbourhood because it's just so small," he said.
The Mayfair Safeway is one of four in the province that will soon be converted into FreshCo.
The locations in Market and Confederation malls will also be affected, in addition to Safeway in Regina's Regent Park.
The move comes as Safeway's parent company, Sobey's, rebrands.
"In fiscal 2018, the Company announced plans to convert approximately 25 per cent of its underperforming Safeway and Sobeys locations over a five year period," the company said in a press release.
For senior shoppers without vehicles, the transition will be a challenge.
"It's a five minute walk, not even. It's so handy," Anna Podhorodecki said.
A researcher at the University of Saskatchewan says grocery stores in lower income neighbourhoods see a lot of foot traffic and losing them can make finding healthier options more difficult.
"What we hear is that people go to convenience stores or they go to Giant Tiger type stores, Shoppers Drug Marts, you know those kinds of places to get the basics more frequently. And then they are in a position where they have to wait until they have a ride to go do their quote-grocery shopping trips," Rachel Engler-Stringer said.
For Bustamante, while he's sad to change his normal routine, he's looking forward to a brand new store.
"I'm going to miss it for that little bit, but kind of glad it's still going to come back."
The new FreshCo stores are expected to open sometime in the summer. The dates will be announced as they are confirmed.