Sunday, May 3, 2015

1100 King Edward Street - Safeway Distribution Centre,-97.20644,3a,75y,270.29h,84.04t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sNRF9egMqlP03IBY-k7BZUQ!2e0!6m1!1e1

Place: Safeway Distribution Warehouse
Address: 1100 King Edward Street
Opened: October 1960

1930 ad banner
Safeway has been a presence in Canada since 1929 when it opened its first wave of grocery stores in Winnipeg and Vancouver. (You can read more about their arrival here.) 

A key to the U.S.-based chain's ability to dominate a new market so quickly was through the acquisition and merger, or closure, of existing retail chains, food manufacturers and  wholesalers. One of their Winnipeg purchases was Macdonalds Consolidated.


The company was created in 1914 by Alexander Macdonald who grew it into a Western Canada-wide wholesaler and, eventually, a retailer through the "P and B" grocery store chain. When Macdonald died in August 1928 the company's board decided to get out of the retail side of the business and sold its stores to Safeway. The following year, they sold the  wholesaling business to them as well.

Safeway moved its head office and main warehouse into those of Macdonalds at 313 Pacific Avenue.

 May 1951 ad, Winnipeg Free Press

Fast forward to the 1950s and Safeway was basking in the glow of post-war prosperity and the flight to the suburbs. Over the course of the decade they opened 18 stores in Winnipeg with 12 more expected to open around Manitoba between December 1959 and December 1960.

By the end of 1960 their total Manitoba presence was 45 stores.

October 29, 1960, Winnipeg Free Press

In an October 1959 newspaper feature about the store's 30th anniversary in Winnipeg, Safeway noted that a “$2,000,000 grocery and frozen food warehouse to be built in St. James is now in the planning stage.” The Safeway Distribution Centre opened in October 1960.

The 219,000 square foot facility was situated on a 15 acre site and boasted a grocery warehouse, perishable goods warehouse a frozen foods storage and added 12 new semi trucks, most of them refrigerated, to their truck fleet. The vast increase in the company's warehousing capacity meant that stores running out of stock would, for the most part, be a thing of the past. 

It was one of three massive warehouses constructed in the area at the time. the others were the Eatons 320,000 square foot facility on Wellington Avenue and a 155,000 square foot warehouse for Federated Co-op's grocery business.

October 29, 1960, Winnipeg Free Press

The centre underwent a 22,900 square foot expansion in 1962, which added an ice cream plant, cheese packaging plant and an egg department. it has been expanded a number of times since to reach its current size of 427,000 square feet.

A few non-grocery related events took place at the warehouse over the decades.

The 1979 Rainbow Sage production of A Desert Song, called for a massive proscenium. Artist  Martin Johnston built and painted it here. it was, at the time, the biggest set item constructed for the theatre company.

In the winter of 1994 - 95 it was home to Coach No. 103 of the Prairie Dog Central as it received an overhaul and new paint job. 

The warehouse had a close call in 1987 when neighbouring Reliance Products, a plastics manufacturing plant, burned to the ground. A third alarm was called in just to save Safeway facility Warehouse from going up in flames. It sustained minor fire damage but was soon back in business.

In 2013 Sobeys purchased Canada Safeway for $5.8 billion. 

The acquisition meant that the company had three distribution centres in Winnipeg. According to this Canadian Grocer column, the King Edward facility was used to ship dry goods, tobacco, perishables and produce to corporate and independent stores in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and North West Ontario. Safeway also has a frozen food warehouse facility on Empress Avenue. Sobeys, of course, has a much newer 321,000 square foot facility on Inkster Boulevard.

In February 2015 Sobeys announced that the King Edward facility would be closed within a year, laying off 172 people.

October 29, 1960, Winnipeg Free Press

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