Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

North End grocery closing its doors

Loss of Extra Foods blow to area residents

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A grocery story that has been a North End mainstay for more than half a century is pulling out.

Extra Foods, at 1445 Main St., was telling customers on Saturday parent company Westfair Foods is shutting the store at the end of March. The closure is viewed as another blow for the North End economy.

Store personnel would not comment to the Free Press. However, shoppers were being told the bad news inside the store on Saturday.

"I think it's disgraceful," said Ellen Parsons, who was told of the closure by a staff member at the checkout counter. "I've been shopping here for 32 years. I think it's absolutely terrible, especially for a lot of seniors in this area. Many people who don't own a vehicle shop here regularly."

That includes Vera Senchuk, who was shopping at the store with her husband Wolodymyr.

"I like this store and I like having Safeway and Extra Foods together. And this store is within walking distance for us," she said.

The store was a Loblaws about half a century ago, then morphed into an EconoMart, then into Extra Foods, according to one shopper. It has always coexisted with a Safeway next door. That has provided healthy competition for prices and products.

"It's hitting a low-income neighbourhood. It's terrible," said another shopper, Sid Blum. He viewed it as another hit for the North End.

The closure caught many people by surprise, because Extra Foods replaced its entire parking lot last summer at considerable cost.

It's not known how many people could be laid off. Westfair's administrative office was closed Saturday and officials could not be reached for comment.

Westfair recently announced it is closing its grocery store in Steinbach as of Feb. 23. The United Food and Commercial Workers union could not be reached either. Extra Foods workers are part of the union.

"I was just in there yesterday," said Judy Wasylycia-Leis, a former MP for the riding who lives in the area, of Extra Foods. "The store's always busy. I'm quite surprised."

"For seniors and people without cars who rely on public transit, this will certainly be a hardship."

Wasylycia-Leis said there aren't many grocery stores left "between the tracks and north of Jefferson, if you're looking at the old North End."

People are hoping Neechi Foods gets up and running soon at a new location on Main Street, but its opening has been delayed.

"It's just getting investors lined up. It seems to be progressing and held some open houses. It will be an important addition to the neighbourhood," Wasylycia-Leis said.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 27, 2013 A3

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