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Fresh City doesn’t let pandemic halt new store opening

Toronto location gives nearby hospital workers and residents new food options

At Fresh City’s new Toronto store, “the frontlines meet the frontlines,” says founder and CEO Ran Goel.

The grocer’s latest store, located at the base of a condo building at Bay and Gerrard, is in the vicinity of five major hospitals: The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto General Hospital, Mount Sinai Hospital, Women’s College Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital. Fresh City is offering all hospital workers a 10% discount on grab-and-go fresh prepared items and single beverages.

“Healthcare workers are obviously the very front of the line, but close behind them are the grocery store workers, so it’s been interesting to see them interact over the last few days,” says Goel.

While the new 5,500-sq.-ft. location has been in the works for some time, Goel thought about delaying the opening given the current COVID-19 pandemic. But ultimately, he decided to forge ahead.

“To start, we had hired all these staff and they all wanted to proceed,” he says. “The other factor was being so close to all the hospitals and getting requests that having a grocery store open now is important to the community.”

READ: How smaller online grocers are adapting to the COVID-19 era

Fresh City, which specializes in organic, sustainable and seasonal fresh food, has scaled back the offering at the new store in light of the pandemic. A seating area is closed for now, as are the deli, meat and fish counters.

“A café was also part of the concept and we have a beautiful espresso machine that’s not operating because we don’t want to create lineups and people waiting around for their lattes,” says Goel. “The launch was very pared back from the initial vision, but we’re providing grab-and-go groceries, which we can do safely.”

The new store marks Fresh City’s eighth location across all three brands under the company’s umbrella, including Mabel’s Bakery and The Healthy Butcher. When the pandemic is over, customers will be able to shop the Healthy Butcher meat and fish counter, as well as a Mabel’s service counter where they can buy soups, paninis, sandwiches, salads, side dishes and meals.

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