The relationship between Zehrs and Loblaws

All things Canadian.

Moderator: Groceteria

Post Reply
User avatar
Andrew T.
Senior Member
Posts: 587
Joined: 18 Oct 2007 14:26
Location: Thunder Bay
Contact:

The relationship between Zehrs and Loblaws

Post by Andrew T. » 05 Sep 2018 22:14

Loblaws' branding is nothing if not complicated, but I'm nonetheless confused by the history of Zehrs and the relationship of that chain to Loblaws.

I know that Zehrs originated in Kitchener, and I know that the chain had a relatively late start with the first store opening in 1950. But when was the chain acquired by Loblaws? Wikipedia says nothing, and I don't know. Zehrs for years maintained its distinct store designs, and the Loblaws "L" didn't begin to be added to Zehrs signage until fairly recently. Does this mean that Zehrs maintained autonomy under Loblaws? Again, I don't know.

Zehrs' trade area is a bit strange: Most of it is a clump radiating out from Waterloo-Kitchener, but they also leapfrogged Loblaws' markets to operate in far-flung locales like Windsor and Sarnia. Was this expansion done before or under Loblaws? I don't know. Did Zehrs- and Loblaws-branded stores ever coexist simultaneously in the same city? Again, I don't know.

In short, there's a lot about Zehrs I don't know...and if anyone does know any of the answers, I'd be grateful.
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

User avatar
Andrew T.
Senior Member
Posts: 587
Joined: 18 Oct 2007 14:26
Location: Thunder Bay
Contact:

Re: The relationship between Zehrs and Loblaws

Post by Andrew T. » 26 Jun 2019 12:15

Bumping this thread, so I can fill it in with some of the information I've learned in recent months...

* This article corroborates that Zehrs was indeed founded in 1950. Their first store was located at 100 Highland Rd W in Kitchener, and this building survives.
* The same article notes that Zehrs was acquired by Loblaws in 1963...earlier than I expected!
* The original Zehrs logo consisted of a row of five diamonds, as seen here. Trademark records indicate that the logo was "Loblaw-ized" in 1975.
* Given how early Zehrs' acquisition by Loblaws was, it goes without saying that most of its expansion was done as part of the Loblaws fold. Which is a bit surprising...but Loblaws management may have sensed in the 1970s that the Zehrs division was running itself better than their namesake division was, and gave them carte blanche to perpetuate themselves in southwestern Ontario.
* When doing research in the Chatham thread, I discovered the existence of a Zehrs sub-subsidiary called Gordons that operated until the late 1980s. Now I've discovered something even better: A map of Zehrs and Gordons locations, showing how their trade areas abetted each other in the 1980s! At the time, the Gordons name was being used for stores in the southwestern extremity of the province (Windsor, Chatham) while Zehrs was used for locations a bit further north and east. It's interesting to see that they they once did business in small towns like Petrolia and Exeter that are now the exclusive province of "Your Independent Grocer" franchises. It's also worth noting that Sarnia is absent from the map: Loblaws was still doing business in that city under their own name at the time.
* The consolidation of southwest Ontario operations under the Zehrs name happened gradually between the 1970s and 1990s, and there were unquestionably cities where multiple names appeared simultaneously. One of these is London, oddly enough, where a "Zehrs Food Plus" and three Loblaws stores briefly did business side by side. Gordons and Loblaws had overlap in the 1970s in Chatham, and I wouldn't doubt that this also happened in other places.
"The pale pastels which have been featured in most food stores during the past 20 years are no longer in tune with the mood of the 1970s."
Andrew Turnbull

User avatar
Groceteria
Great Pumpkin
Posts: 1657
Joined: 04 Nov 2005 12:13
Location: NC Triad
Contact:

Re: The relationship between Zehrs and Loblaws

Post by Groceteria » 26 Jun 2019 20:56

Le swoon...

Seriously, this is amazing and clears up many questions. Thanks!

User avatar
mcbill2471
Novice Member
Posts: 7
Joined: 28 Dec 2020 18:29

Re: The relationship between Zehrs and Loblaws

Post by mcbill2471 » 24 Jan 2021 13:21

Zehrs and Gordons were both independent chains purchased by Loblaws in 1963 and allowed to run independently under their own leadership teams and administration. In 1977 Gordons was moved under the Zehrmart division, but still operated with its own Administration Office. The office was closed in 1982 and Gordons became a district within Zehrs, with the rebranding to Zehrs occuring in the summer of 1984.

Post Reply