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Industry NewsSoutheastern Ontario grocery store reopening after 2020 fire

Southeastern Ontario grocery store reopening after 2020 fire

Sayers Foods will soon reopen in Apsley, Ont. after a devastating fire destroyed the store in December 2020.

Owner Jeff Sayers says the new store will open in late February or early March as builders complete the final phase. For Sayers, it’s been three years since getting back to supporting the community.

“We received an incredible amount of support from different members of the community, including members of the community that came to my house and brought homemade food and stuff to try to help just do what they could at that kind of vulnerable time when we were figuring out what to do and how to get back on our feet,” Sayers told Grocery Business.

He added he received a lot of support from grocery chains in the area, including Loblaw, which provided grocery delivery to locals, and others who helped connect them to consultants and suppliers.

For over four decades, Sayers Independent Food Town was a place to buy groceries and a gathering place for the tight-knit community. Then, in December 2020, a devastating fire at the store in North Kawartha Township left residents without their primary grocery store and a beloved social hub. Sayers said an electrical issue in the back half of the store was the cause. It had been a fixture in the community since 1976, evolving from Sayers General Store to an IGA and then a Foodland, finally becoming Sayers Independent Food Town in 2017. Moreover, people felt the impact because the nearest grocery store is 35 minutes to an hour away.

“It was a Saturday morning. I was already in bed. I got a call on my wife’s phone because I don’t sleep with my phone nearby. I jumped out of bed because it sounded rough. I was supposed to coach hockey practice later that morning,” Sayers said.

Revamped space includes new front patio, Wi-fi for guests

Despite these obstacles, the Sayers family and the community have been committed to their determination to rebuild. The new store has been designed with the community in mind, featuring a more socially oriented layout that encourages interaction among shoppers. The front half of the store is dedicated to fresh produce, creating a market-style environment. Additionally, a front patio with Wi-Fi and power outlets has been integrated with the sidewalk, creating a welcoming space for community members to gather.

The store’s square footage remains almost unchanged, maintaining a similar shape to the original building. The main renovation involves not replacing the underground basement but expanding the main floor to make it slightly larger. Consequently, the overall building square footage remains consistent, suggesting that the main floor expansion offset the lack of a new basement. Furthermore, they repurposed unused apartments and redundant storage space from the building’s old residential portion, increasing the store’s square footage and providing more retail space.

Brent Falvo, a part-time resident of Apsley, told Grocery Business he’s looking forward to seeing the store reopen. Since moving to the town in 2020, Sayers Foods has been one of his go-to destinations for food and fun.

“One of the most important businesses in Apsley for many residents there and in the surrounding area of North Kawartha is the local grocery store Sayers Foods. Tragically, (the store) was obliterated in a fire in December of 2020. Being new to the area, we were upset to learn that we had lost a place that somehow signified the town. We were happy that there were no injuries in the blaze but also saddened to see how many people were left to bear the stresses of not having some of the necessities they depended on,” Falvo, senior vice president of international and general manager of Canada at Reynolds Consumer Products, told Grocery Business in an email.

“There is a renewed sense of enthusiasm and excitement lately as the rebuilt Sayers Foods appears to be nearly complete. It is amazing to see how the opening of a grocery store can create such excitement in a community that was left brokenhearted when it suddenly and tragically disappeared.”

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