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T&T Supermarkets Expanding into Quebec with 1st Store: CEO Interview

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T&T Supermarkets is continuing to expand in the Canadian market and announced on Thursday it will be opening its first store in Quebec in the next 12 to 24 months.

The news comes after the recent announcement that the company would open a new location in the winter of 2022 in the CF Fairview Mall in Toronto.

“After receiving many requests over the years from T&T fans who live in Montreal, I’m happy to say we are finally coming,” said Tina Lee, CEO of T&T Supermarkets.  “Our goal is always to be at the forefront of Asian food innovation, and I am so excited to introduce our offering to Montreal, a city that has such a vibrant food-loving culture.

Tina Lee, CEO of T&T Supermarkets (CNW Group/Loblaw Companies Limited)

“Montreal is the second largest city in Canada. Certainly on the population side it’s only second to Toronto and that also goes for its East Asian population, which I feel is large enough for T&T to give it a try and open one store there, albeit in a new province which gives its own complexities.

“Also what I feel very encouraged about after visiting Montreal in the summer is that I’ve come to appreciate that Quebeckers are quite a food-loving culture. I think we’re going to appeal to more than just the Chinese-Canadian population. We are hoping to welcome non-Asians as well to the store because food is such a big part of living in Montreal, celebrating every meal. And T&T product I hope will resonate really well with the local community. That gives me optimism that our store will do well there.”

T&T Supermarkets is the largest Asian supermarket chain in Canada, with 29 stores, operating in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario. T&T Supermarkets was founded in Vancouver in 1993 and is now led by second generation successor Lee. T&T Supermarket is headquartered in Richmond, BC, with offices in Toronto. It is owned by Loblaw Companies.

T&T Supermarket on College Street in Toronto (Photo: Dustin Fuhs)

“Since joining Loblaw, I have gotten to know T&T Supermarkets and it simply must be brought to Quebec,” said Robert Sawyer, COO of Loblaw Companies Limited and a resident of Montreal. “It’s not just the Asian population that is going to love this store – all Quebeckers from different backgrounds are going to really enjoy this unique shopping destination.  We all miss travelling the world to explore new flavours. Pretty soon the people of Montreal will be able to experience the best Asian food offering I’ve seen right here in the city.”

Lee said the company is finalizing its site selection and narrowing in on the island of Montreal and it will be a typical T&T size of about 40,000 square feet.

It is also starting recruitment efforts for Department Heads, Assistant Department Heads and Department Supervisors, who live in Montreal. Training can be conducted in any of the existing T&T stores, with the closest store to Montreal being Ottawa. As the store opens, the company will hire over 300 people to join the T&T team.

It is also reaching out to local vendors in Montreal in preparation for the launch of the new location.

T&T Supermarket at Willowbrook Shopping Centre
Image: T&T Supermarket at Willowbrook Shopping Centre

The T&T story began in 1993 when Cindy Lee, an immigrant from Taiwan and a working mother of three, had a simple dream to help families by bringing the best of Asian fresh food and groceries under one roof. Helped by her husband Jack, Lee opened two stores in Burnaby and Richmond, BC. The name of the supermarket relates to her two daughters Tina and Tiffany and the initials of two early investors.

In 1998, T&T launched restaurant-quality sushi and dim sum which was the start of the supermarket pioneering in-store food innovation.

In 1999, it opened its first location outside of BC in Calgary at the Pacific Place Mall and then in 2002 it opened its ninth store at the Promenade Mall in Thornhill, Ontario.

The company was acquired by Loblaw in 2009 with Cindy Lee continuing as CEO and the Lee family remaining a significant shareholder.

In 2014, Cindy retired and was succeeded by daughter Tina.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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