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No Frills to become a Food Basics

Despite objections from many Elmira residents and local officials, the No Frills at 232 Arthur St. S. will be sold to Quebec-based Metro Inc. and converted to a Food Basics.

The store is one of three locations in Canada that Loblaws Companies Ltd. was forced to sell following the acquisition of the Shoppers Drug Mart Corporation.

In response to the $12.4 billion takeover, the federal Competition Bureau mandated the closure of either No Frills or Shoppers stores in communities that have both, fearing the company would hold a monopoly on the food and drug markets in small towns. Fourteen Shoppers locations will be sold across Canada, but only three No Frills.

Brian McHugh helped organize a petition that garnered some 2,800 signatures calling on the Competition Bureau to overturn its decision.

“It’s disappointing, but I don’t think it was unexpected because we have been hearing these rumours for a number of weeks,” McHugh, the owner of Brian’s Photo in Elmira said. “Most of my customers that came in to talk about it, or to sign the petition or the postcard (sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper). All said that they love Paul and Adele’s No Frills, and that they’ve done such a good job of making that a very successful discount grocery store.”

Customers liked the price matching offered at the store he said, as well as the high level of customer service.

Fortunately, the latter should continue under the Food Basics banner.

In a statement, Metro spokesperson Jocelyne Martineau said, “Metro will hire all active employees in Elmira and will also hire all unionized employees under the terms of the current collective agreement. We are currently in discussions with the Elmira franchisee and his wife in order to maintain the current management at the Elmira store.”

Woolwich Mayor Todd Cowan expressed dissatisfaction with the forced sale.

“We put a lot of work into (the township’s) response to the Competition Bureau and our response basically being, you know, when you look at the growth of Elmira, in all of Woolwich, Elmira is one area that is poised for quite a bit of growth, exponentially because of the Lunor development here in town that is going to be 1,700 more houses that they’ve started working on. We feel that they could have sustained a grocery store and that they should keep it open, but the Competition Bureau thought differently.”

While the staff at the store may stay the same, the Food Basics will not offer President’s Choice products, which are exclusive to Loblaws stores.

“People love the PC products, and they love to have a lot of variety of PC products, which they won’t be able to get at Shoppers Drug Mart,” McHugh said. “The (Shoppers) will have a few PC products but not enough.”

He added, “customers are very smart and they know where they can get the same product at a cheaper price and they are mobile. They are able to drive to Kitchener to get it if they have to. So I think some of these customers might vote with their feet and go somewhere else.”

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