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Summerhill Market ramps up expansion

High-end Toronto market recently opened a commissary and has announced plans for two new locations

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Toronto’s popular high-end grocer Summerhill Market is in the middle of a growth spurt that will see two new locations open by early next year.

A 6,000-sq.-ft. store on Bathurst near Dupont (1014 Bathurst) is slated to open in early September. The next location, approximately 7,500-sq.-ft. on Eglinton near Avenue, is scheduled to open in the first half of 2020. “It’s very exciting times for us,” said owner Brad McMullen. “We’ve had a lot on the go for the last year and a half.”

The first store will include the full complement of Summerhill prepared meals and salads and baked goods, with less high service offerings such as a meat or deli counter. It’s all about quick and convenient, said McMullen. “It’s what you see in Europe with smaller foot-print stores with little service but higher quality foods for grab-and-go,” he said.

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The plan for the second, slightly larger store, is still in the works, he said. But spread over two floors, it’s likely to include more customer services and larger grocery offering, while also offering all of the prepared options Summerhill is known for.

summerhill-instagram-storyThe key piece to the expansion—aside from finding reasonably priced real estate in the city’s still hot real estate market—was first opening a production facility late last year just outside of the city core but still close enough to service its stores clustered in mid-town.

Summerhill has long been known for both its grocery and prepared meal offerings. But it was contrained by the small perparation space at its flagship store, said McMullen. “Bascially we were running a small factory out of the Rosedale store,” he said. Its new 20,000-sq.-ft. commissary is a state-of-the-art production facility with a bakery, which was first to open last October. A meat room, production-style kitchen, packaging area, blast chiller, storage freezer and chilled preparation room continue to roll out.

The additional production capacity will not only allow Summerhill to supply the new locations but could lead to an enhanced offering overall, said McMullen.

“The [increased] scale is pretty exciting… we can enhance our quality even more,” he said. For example, Summerhill prepares and sells a lot of chicken every day, but to this point had to buy chicken parts and pieces. “With the new meat room, we can process our own parts and by doing that we can now pay whole chicken prices instead of the premium for parts and pieces,” he said. That could mean savings of 10% to 20% on its current chicken business, which could go straight to the bottom line or toward buying more premium chicken.

Similar gains could be realized across the business, he said. “Everyone is in a race to the bottom [on pricing]. We are trying to race to the top on quality and there are a lot of efficiences [from the new production facility] we can use to differentiate ourselves.”

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