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Sneak Peek: Longo’s Opens at Historic Imperial Plaza

Longo’s launches its latest urban-format store tomorrow at Imperial Plaza on St. Clair Avenue W, joining the LCBO in the lobby of one of TO's most iconic modernist office towers (just converted to a condo). Bisnow got a preview tour.

Sneak Peek: Longo’s Opens at Historic Imperial Plaza

We snapped chief development officer Joey Longo with Ampersand studio principal Glen Kerr—the retail designer and strategist who helped Longo's with the Market store rebrand—in front of the new shop's deli counter with vintage-esque button sign. The 8,500 SF location is Longo’s 28th in the GTA, with five smaller-format Markets like this one. The building it’s based in was built in 1957 as Imperial Oil's HQ (the concept was first proposed for new city hall, but the clamshell prevailed). “We wanted to be respectful of the original design,” says Glen, noting new floors and windows carefully match the old. “We’re even designing light fixtures and wall sconces to look like they’re from that era.”

Sneak Peek: Longo’s Opens at Historic Imperial Plaza

The Market Store features all the fresh offerings Longo’s is known for—stone pizza oven, salad bar, organic produce, and full-service deli and cheese counter with 100 varieties—but a pared-down selection of dry and frozen goods. There’s fresh-cut flowers and a full-service Starbucks, too. Joey notes the store is at the base of a 400-unit condo (seen above) and that developer Camrost-Felcorp is building another tower next door (Blue Diamond), one of many new residential projects cropping up in an area underserved by retail. “There’s going to be quite a bit of population growth here in the next three to five years. And that high density was very attractive to us.”

Sneak Peek: Longo’s Opens at Historic Imperial Plaza

Having an LCBO just across the lobby is big (shown above, it could be the slickest-looking one yet...you can almost picture Don Draper buying his Canadian Club there). Coupled with the new Longo’s—along a streetcar line, and with underground parking—it promises to make Imperial Plaza a neighbourhood destination. “We find it’s a good fit, being with an LCBO,” Joey says, noting that foot traffic is key to the success of Longo’s Market stores. At a cost of $5M to build, the Longo's at 111 St Clair Ave W will boast an outdoor patio that seats 60. “There’s been a gap in the area, and this is an opportunity Longo’s is a perfect fit for,” Glen notes. “This will be the one-stop shop for fresh.”

Sneak Peek: Longo’s Opens at Historic Imperial Plaza

Here’s Joey in front of the Imperial office building's original "Story of Oil" mural, featured prominently at the grocery's entrance. Longo's opened its first urban-format store at Brookfield Place nearly a decade ago. “And we have a couple more on the go I can’t tell you about because they’re not signed and sealed yet.” (The company also owns the Grocery Gateway online delivery service.) Longo’s has a historic connection with Imperial Plaza; Joey’s dad, Tommy, and his brothers launched their first store at Yonge and Castlefield in 1956, a year before the opening of the grand International-style limestone tower. “I think they built it because they knew that in time we would be coming."