The mysteries of Eaton Groceteria in Canada

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Andrew T.
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The mysteries of Eaton Groceteria in Canada

Post by Andrew T. »

Does anyone know about the Eaton Groceteria chain of stores? It's a name that's come up a number of times in my Ontario research...and it offers up a host of mysteries I've yet to solve.

Was this a division of the Eaton's department store chain that went belly-up in 1999?

In cities such as London, St. Thomas, Woodstock, and Sault Ste. Marie, Eaton Groceteria stores had become established by 1930...more or less in tandem with the other Canadian chains (Dominion, Loblaw, and A&P). But within a decade, they were gone. In London, they had disappeared by 1935; in the smaller cities of St. Thomas and Woodstock, they were gone by 1940. In Sault Ste. Marie they were still there in 1939, but had vanished by 1945. What caused them to go out of business so quickly?

I haven't found much in the way of answers online, but I have found clues that they did business in Edmonton and Saskatoon...so they were national (or at least inter-regional) in scope.

Any ideas?
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Re: The mysteries of Eaton Groceteria in Canada

Post by Andrew T. »

A belated follow-up...
eaton-770509.jpg
Eaton Groceterias were part, lock, stock, and barrel of the T. Eaton department store chain of Toronto. Their storefronts said "Operated by the T. Eaton Co. Limited" on them, and they were sometimes located adjacent to Eaton catalogue or department stores.

"Foodateria" was also a T. Eaton brand, hailing from the later period of Eaton grocery operations. So the mystery is solved.

The only question that remains is the question of why Eaton gave up on its southern Ontario Groceterias so soon. My guess is that groceries didn't have very good profit margins, Eaton regarded them as a distraction to its core general merchandise business; and when competition ramped up with the advent of supermarkets in the 1930s, they were squeezed out of the segment. (It wasn't unheard of for downtown department stores to have grocery departments in the early 20th century, and nigh all of them disappeared or were converted to specialty foods boutiques later on for much the same reasons.)

In western Canada, they may have hung on later due to a lack of intense competition: For example, Safeway was the only large grocery-only chain that operated in Port Arthur and Fort William until the 1950s.
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Re: The mysteries of Eaton Groceteria in Canada

Post by Groceteria »

Of course in the far west (BC and Alberta) Woodward's department stores included full-line supermarkets in their stores as late as the 1986. I believe there were also some standalones, though these may all have been adjacent to (or in the same center as) department stores. Safeway ended up buying the food component of the business.
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Re: The mysteries of Eaton Groceteria in Canada

Post by jakking »

Eaton's Department store in Vancouver opened a groceteria in October of 1919 but, a year later, grocery manager George T. Wolfe said he had seen “no noticeable difference” in the amount of business done. HBC was also opposed to self-service. However, both Woodward's and Spencer's went full out for the groceteria business.

See: https://grandviewheritagegroup.ca/2022/ ... 1918-1926/
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