Saturday, December 3, 2011

in aisle 25

It was all quiet on Carlton Street in front of this shrine on Friday afternoon, but Wednesday morning was a different story. People actually started lining up on the street on Tuesday night to be first to enter the new Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens (MLG) when it opened at 8AM on November 30th. Almost exactly 80 years after its original Grand Opening as a hockey arena and home to the Toronto Maple Leafs (until 1999)
Now, it is a grocery store.
I had to see it when it was still all bright and shiny new
(and in full disclosure, this was only my second time ever being in this place of so many memories)

It is a store with special touches

and a giant Amazing Wall of Cheese

and a popular sushi bar placed at the outside wall with windows onto the street for some great theatre
When it was first announced that a grocery chain had bought this iconic building, there was much gnashing of teeth at the effrontery of it all. MLG is considered a hallowed shrine. It was not only used for a beloved hockey team, but was also the venue for many other sporting events, not least for wrestling and boxing. Then there were the concerts - Elvis and the Beatles among them. 
This new store is actually full of mementoes of these events. From the pictures on the pillars to the old posters on the walls and even the cafe tables are a collage of old sporting event memorabilia shots.
At the entrance is a collection of the old chairs from the arena painted in blue and (artfully?) arranged on the wall in the shape of a maple leaf. The original walls were left exposed and one can still see the imprint of the risers next to the new escalators. Further up and not yet finished will be an athletic centre and a new hockey rink for the nearby university. This building and its owners has also been riddled with controversy over the years, which just adds to the legendary status and the controversy continues (but I won't bore you with details. google it if you are really interested)
This is as much a tourist attraction as a grocery store for a badly needed vibe in this area and there were staff galore handing out maps and brochures and guiding you to see the sights. Halcyon, who was with me, desperately wanted to get a picture of their specially designed t-shirts, but everyone declined (bosses were likely watching carefully on the security cameras) but I managed a covert shot of these two poor sods in1930s newsboys outfits who wandered around handing out free bags and colourful brochures for the special events being held.
and then there is aisle 25.
where near the end, surrounded by soy sauces, is a red dot.
this folks, is the very spot of centre ice

seriously, next to the amazing wall of cheese, this was possibly the biggest attraction

and as you can see by this large billboard (interestingly seen across the street at Church and Carlton) 
this was a major, show stopping event.


  1. I've been there a few times for hockey games....never thought I would see a wall devoted to cheese there.

  2. Delores: there should be more grapes with the cheese, perhaps?

    (sorry, inside joke for HNiC fans)

  3. I'm not a huge fan of, ahem, "the grapes" but you know, it would have been a nice touch either on the wall of cheese or on the centre ice dot. Ah well..times change, not always for the best.

  4. That does seem like an amazing grocery store to an innocent bystander like me. I would enjoy visiting it very much and try to really take in as much of the atmosphere as I could. It helps that you told the story about it, of course, Violet. It looks like the new owners succeeded with their plan, doesn't it? Neat tourist attraction also.

  5. Nora: it was a little depressing going back to my local 'Loblaws' for my grocery shopping tonight.

  6. What a great place! Love the ambiance!!

  7. Wow! That is some store. How were the prices there? I would think there would be a huge mark-up.

  8. SueAnn: I think they did a good job of holding on to as much history as they could. and the fact that it is a store that people will need to go to several times a month is far better choice than, say, a furniture store.

    Lorac: it is a unique Loblaws, that's for sure. and the mark up didn't seem bad - but then this week is probably a lot of opening specials. the sushi seemed particularly reasonable and far more varied than at any other location.

  9. Loblaws took over two old decrepit buildings in Montreal - and did them over really well, adding a park to one.

    There was much moaning and gnashing of teeth until people realized just how great it had been done. I love that they do that rather than building another ugly concrete building.

  10. The history of this hallowed place has entirely passed me by until now, and I never will understand the place of hockey in the Canadian psyche. But you have enlightened my ignorance a smidgeon with this very enjoyable post. Great photos too. Thanks!

  11. While it is sad that they replaced this historic site with a grocery store, at least the store has kept some mementos and images of the past.

  12. Jazz: Loblaws has done a very good job with this store. I don't think too many people are gnashing their teeth over this any more!

    Beastie: truth to tell, this hockey obsession is a little beyond me, too! still, it is ingrained in our psyche, for sure.

    Pauline: it may be a historic site, but before it was just a dirty hockey arena, now it will be used by so many people. I look forward to when Ryerson gets the rink on the 5th floor finished - that will be awesome!

  13. This was very fascinating and it looks like Loblaws did a good job of keeping the reverence for this hallowed sports arena. Where have the Maple Leafs moved to?

  14. LGS: they, as well as the Raptors (basketball) and the Rock (lacrosse), have moved to the Air Canada Centre (ACC) which is beside Union Station.

  15. Great photos! The shopping centre reminded a little of our "Melbourne Central" that has been built around an old lead shot factory, which has been preserved in the middle of it.

  16. This store makes my knees weak. I am pointing my car northwards, towards Canada, right now. I'll be there by first daylight.

  17. Nix: I believe these architects were severely restricted by the building. It seemed an odd mix of having a chain and a university share the space, but I think it will be very successful.

    SAW: I discovered that there is (limited) parking built underground and it is 1 hour free with only $18 purchases. very wise move. I will be back there for sure.

    Jocelyn: come on up. hurry before the 'specials' go back to regular prices ;)

  18. Did you delete my comment? On Sunday I left a comment here. I said that looked really cool and asked if it was close enough for you to walk to. So I check back today to see what your answer was and my comment has disappeared. Funky.

  19. Geewits: I did not delete your comment... in fact, I was wondering where you were!
    and, in answer to your question, no it is not close enough to walk to. it is in downtown Toronto which means going through too many city streets... so at least 45-60 minutes during daytime hours.

  20. It was certainly an impressive store, especially for downtown. Your shots turned out well!


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