Ontario grocer, CFIG speak out against town's proposal to add second food retail store

Owner of Geddes Street Market says the town doesn't need another grocery store
9/6/2023
geddes street market
Photography via Geddes Street Market/Facebook

The owner of Geddes Street Market in Elora, Ont. and the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers are asking that the Centre Wellington council do more to support the only existing grocery store in town before considering allowing a second.

In a letter written by CFIG President and CEO Tom Shurrie, the association says that a chain retail food store is not in the best long-term interests of Elora residents as it threatens the viability of existing independent grocery stores in the community and wants council to amend the current proposal and prevent a retail chain from bringing "Bay Street consolidation to Main Street Elora.''

"`Independents have a symbiotic relationship with the community that they serve,'' said the letter. "They support local groups and initiatives, hire local, buy local and reflect the ambience and flavour of their community that they themselves live in.''

Debra Kropf, owner of the Geddes Street Market, has vehemently opposed the proposal, most recently during a public meeting in June.

"I gave up a very great store in Drayton to come back to my hometown,'' said Kropf in an interview. "The town said they wanted me here and now all of a sudden (it feels like) they're asking for something different.''

According to Kropf, she has done her best to go above and beyond for her community; creating a free pantry in the back of the store, providing supplies to the CW Mobile Market and even paying for locals' groceries when they couldn't afford them.

"I don't even know what store it is or what size but it is not necessary with Fergus being so close,'' said Kropf. "We're ruining the way Elora used to be; small, quaint and beautiful.''

One of the biggest challenges Kropf has experienced is competing with neighbouring chains as well as hiring staff that can work the hours available.

Working full-time in-store, Kropf's adult children put their lives on hold when they moved to Elora to help their mom start the Geddes Street Market.

"People needed food and begged (my mom) to come,'' said Kropf's daughter, Alexis. "It's really disheartening because we're just trying the best in a community that doesn't really seem to care.''

A multi-generational calling, Kropf's father Merlen founded L&M Food Markets in 1965 in a former Steinburg's Grocery location in Fergus, Ont., growing his business to include 10 grocery locations and two golf courses over a 56-year legacy.

"It was my grandpa's thing, it's my mom's thing and it's maybe not necessarily ours but we're doing what we can to try and help her,'' said Alexis. "We came here for the community.''

Looking to the future, Kropf jokingly challenged the Centre Wellington council to bag groceries at the market for a day in the hopes it may illuminate some of the problems she's brought forward. In the past, Drayton's mayor would volunteer in-store around the holidays and for various contests hosted by Kropf.

"Truthfully, I just feel I feel very hurt,'' said Kropf. "I've spent over a year of my life, working hard for the community. It feels like nobody's given me a chance yet.''

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