Farm Boy Grocery Chain Continues Ontario Expansion with 48th Store, and Plans for More [Interview]

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Fresh food retailer Farm Boy, part of Empire Company Ltd., has opened a new store in Oshawa, its 48th store in Ontario.

The new Oshawa location is an expansive 26,000-square-foot store that is located at 1280 Clearbrook Drive at Taunton Road East, and embodies Farm Boy’s hallmark commitment to freshness, value, and an unparalleled shopping experience, said Shawn Linton, President & General Manager.

Shawn Linton

“Oshawa was selected due to its popularity in adjacent markets and the growing community near the new location. The location was specifically recommended by the city’s economic development team (the Mayor in 2016). As the 48 th store in the province and the 19th in the Greater Toronto Area, the new Oshawa Farm Boy location has a wide range of offerings for residents including: Farm-fresh produce and organic product offerings; Hundreds of Ontario-sourced, fresh dairy, meat and grocery products; Hot bar and salad bar selections, catering to diverse tastes and schedules; A curated collection of exclusive Farm Boy private-label products;  A diverse selection of local, international and Canadian cheeses; and Sustainable shopping options, including reusable bags,” said Linton.

Prior to the recent opening of Oshawa, it has been slightly over a year since the brand’s last two store openings – Aurora in January 2023 and Sugar Wharf on Queens Quay in Toronto in February 2023.  

Farm Boy in Oshawa, Ontario Grand Opening (Image: Invest Oshawa)

Linton said Farm Boy is continuing to expand with two additional stores opening this year. 

Those include Port Credit, located at 175 Lakeshore Road West in Mississauga, tentatively opening in the Spring and Burlington South, located at 3230 Fairview Street in Burlington, tentatively opening in the Summer.

“Farm Boy continues to grow and deliver best-in-class customer service, a unique in-store shopping experience, friendly staff and high-quality fresh product to new communities across the province,” said Linton. 

“As of right now, we have announced the stores coming later in 2024. We’re committed to continuing that growth and will announce upcoming locations when they are confirmed. Farm Boy strives to bring unparalleled value to our customers and we look forward to continue opening more stores and meeting new customers in those regions.

Farm Boy at Brightwater (Rendering: Brightwater)

“The Farm Boy brand resonates with customers because of our commitment to creating a best-in-class customer experience with a selection of high-quality product at great value. We recognize, among other reasons, like our wonderful in-store experience, exceptional customer service, and focus on fresh, that a significant factor drawing customers back to us is the value connection inherent in our private label line.

“There’s a joy that resonates when picking up one of our fan favourites, like the Eda-Yummy Spicy Kale Edamame Dip, or the thrill of trying out one of the many innovative new products we launch every year. Farm Boy also fosters a deep connection with the local communities our stores call home, by partnering with grassroots organizations in the community. For example, in Oshawa we partnered with Canlan Sports to support girls’ hockey within the community. In Toronto, we support the North Toronto Soccer Club. Farm Boy also supports local food banks through partnerships with organizations like Feed the Need in Durham, Second Harvest and Feed Ontario.”

Farm Boy College Park (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

The image of big grocery chains in the public has taken a hit in recent years with the perception of price gouging. How does Farm Boy combat that perception?

At Farm Boy, we recognize that value is more than just price; it also includes the freshness and quality of our products, the overall customer experience, and the ease of the pathway to purchase – those factors are where Farm Boy stands out,” said Linton. “We focus on ensuring that customers shopping in our stores have a memorable experience, are greeted and helped by friendly staff and leave with the highest quality products. 

“Freshness is a top priority at Farm Boy; we bring in high-quality Canadian meats, dairy, and produce. This means that our products, such as our produce, last longer because of the efficiencies created through that priority, allowing us to pass on savings to our customers. We also offer a wide selection of options that fit our customers’ lifestyles including gluten-free, plant-based, vegan, and vegetarian products. Providing all-around great value is top of mind for us and price is just one factor in the value equation.”

Labour is an issue for everyone in the these days in the retail sector.

“As with all retailers, ensuring that we have the best team members is an ongoing endeavour and we are always excited to provide opportunities to anyone who would like to be part of the Farm Boy experience,” added Linton. “Farm Boy is very fortunate with the talent that we have across the business, with the friendliest people working in our stores and support facilities that bring to life our commitment to that best-in-class customer experience. 

“Our team shares a passion for excellence and continuous improvement, and we foster a culture of asking ourselves “why not,” which allows our staff to feel like they can make a real impact on our business. In terms of attracting new talent, we’re currently working on a relaunch of our recruitment marketing materials, which will highlight the above. The new campaign will be launching this summer.”

Image: Farm Boy

Linton said a trend the company is seeing in the market is that customers are becoming more value-oriented with a growing pull to its private label offerings, not only for their quality, value, variety, and taste but also for the exclusivity factor they bring. 

“Convenience is also an important benefit and factor that our busy family shoppers and city professionals are looking for. Our excellent quality, chef-prepared meals and ready-made salads are highly sought-after, on-the-go meals, for those busy weeknights where our customers don’t have time to cook but are looking for something of great quality and taste, that still remains wholesome,” he said.

“This combination of value, convenience and our commitment to high- quality products is what sets Farm Boy apart and is part of what makes us the preferred destination of choice for our customers.”

Linton said Farm Boy continues to focus on “fun” with its store designs. 

“Key aspects of the brand continue to be the farmer’s market feel to our stores with little surprise and delight features: Mikey the Swinging Monkey over the bananas; Lulu the Cow throughout the store; The clucking chickens above our eggs,” he said.

“These become more meaningful when they are focused on the community the store operates in, such as the CN model train that travels through our Train Yards store in Ottawa.”

Farm Boy has grown from a small produce stand starting in Cornwall in 1981 to 48 stores located across Ontario.

Mario Toneguzzi
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 News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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