S.S. Kresge Abandons Coxwell


Blog / Wednesday, July 5th, 2017
The S.S. Kresge store on Coxwell where Gerrard turns to Eastwood in 1988. The struggling retail chain had seen better days and its troubles were well known. It is now a Dollar Tree. Image: Doug Griffin / Toronto Star / Toronto Public Library, Baldwin Collection, Item TSPA 0015111f.

After having recently been stuck on a short turn of the 506, I couldn’t help but notice the neat brickwork at the top of the Dollar Tree store on Coxwell. After tripping over the photograph above for an unrelated search, I decided to dig a little.

The scene more recently. The lunch counter is gone, but the savings remain. Image: Google Maps, July 2016.

In January of 1941, the Toronto Star reported that the S.S. Kresge Co. planned to construct a store on the east side of Coxwell Avenue, near Eastwood, and it was to cost $48,000.1”Inglis Plant Addition Sends January Permits Past 1940,” Toronto Star, January 27, 1941, 25. The popular discount retailer had been making great strides in Ontario since the 1920s when it jumped across from its Detroit home base to Windsor.2”McElroy, Garnet Andrew,” Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada. http://dictionaryofarchitectsincanada.org/node/1723. Although I have not been able to locate definitive evidence, the building’s design appears similar to most other Kresges and might have been designed by company architect Garnet McElroy.

That lunch counter. Perfect. Image: Doug Griffin / Toronto Star / Toronto Public Library, Baldwin Collection, Item TSPA 0015102f.

I was not particularly old when the Timmins Kresge closed in August 1990.39. See Chris Krejlgaard. “Plug being pulled on poor-performing S.S. Kresge stores,” Northern Ontario Business, June 1, 1990. If there is one thing that I do remember fondly about it, it’s the lunch counter.4Come to think about it, that’s a recurring theme for me and defunct retail chains. I remember the cafeterias at Woolco and K-Mart as well. They always seemed special to the young me. Although I only did get to partake once or twice, at that age, the milkshakes seemed bottomless and people nice. For many living around Coxwell, the lunch counter had long been a sort of third space. According to a 1988 report in the Star, it was believed that its counter was the oldest remaining in the city. It was something of an institution, albeit one that had seen better days.5Jack Lakey. “Old dinette gives east-enders social circle of tea, small-talk,” Toronto Star, October 11, 1988, A7.

Coxwell street scene, including Kresge, 1963. Image: A. Clark Frazier / John Chuckman.

Though flagging, the Coxwell Kresge was not as poor a performer as those in Timmins, North Bay, or Kirkland Lake, but trouble for the K-Mart-owned chain of five’n’dimes was significant and name of Kresge disappeared from the Canadian landscape in 1994.6John Heinzl. “Kresge name to vanish in Canada: U.S. parent chopping five-and-dime chain, plus some K-Mart stores,” Globe and Mail, January 6, 1994, B1. The K-Mart name itself did not last much longer in Canada. In 1998, the remaining 112 stores were purchased by the Hudson’s Bay Company, closing some and converting others to Zellers.

If you’re interested in more information, see Jamie Bradburn’s article, first published in The Grid in 2012. My own next will be for the front page and it deals with Toronto’s jug milk stores.

Notes   [ + ]

1. ”Inglis Plant Addition Sends January Permits Past 1940,” Toronto Star, January 27, 1941, 25.
2. ”McElroy, Garnet Andrew,” Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada. http://dictionaryofarchitectsincanada.org/node/1723.
3. 9. See Chris Krejlgaard. “Plug being pulled on poor-performing S.S. Kresge stores,” Northern Ontario Business, June 1, 1990.
4. Come to think about it, that’s a recurring theme for me and defunct retail chains. I remember the cafeterias at Woolco and K-Mart as well. They always seemed special to the young me.
5. Jack Lakey. “Old dinette gives east-enders social circle of tea, small-talk,” Toronto Star, October 11, 1988, A7.
6. John Heinzl. “Kresge name to vanish in Canada: U.S. parent chopping five-and-dime chain, plus some K-Mart stores,” Globe and Mail, January 6, 1994, B1.

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