A New Twist on an Old Store

You may have noticed the small metal sign, “Tin Tin Grocery”, above the front door at Urban Grocer on 9th Avenue South. Why is that sign there? What does it mean? It pays homage to one of the longest-running stores that was an icon of the London Road area for many years.

The building, built in 1912, has always housed grocery stores. In the beginning the entrance faced 11th Street and its address was 902-11 Street South. In the 1940s the entrance was moved to the avenue side and a new grocery opened. For the next 40 years, proprietors came and went, and façade colours and store names were changed. Names like these, which may ring a bell for some: Economy Grocery (1914-48); Perry’s Grocery (1948-59); J&N Confectionery (1959-61); Krol’s Grocery (1961-68); Elta’s Grocery (1968-73); Dan Dee’s (1978-88); Tin Tin Grocery (1988-2012), Urban Grocer (2012-present).

Tin Tin Grocery was managed by Henry Yip family from 1988 to 2012. By the 1990s, in order to compete with the larger stores and stay in business, Henry added non-food items like videos to his regular inventory of milk, bread and butter, canned foods, soft drinks, candy and chocolate bars. The threat of Sunday shopping and the upsurge of crime cut into the corner store’s profits, and he wondered how long he would be able to survive. After Henry Yip passed away in 1999, his sons Henry Junior and Fred took over the reins of the store for another 13 years with their families, before closing it in June 2012.

Today it is the Urban Grocer, a modern-style corner store which caters to the neighbourhood as the former stores once did to a range of customers from youngsters, seniors, and young families who love the tradition of the convenience the store and what it offers. The inventory ranges from staples to snack foods, fresh produce to various cuts of meat, and a variety of beverages too. A good percentage of the inventory is ordered from points in southern Alberta – Nobleford, Picture Butte, Coalhurst, Coaldale, Claresholm and is either gluten free or organic.

Local corner and neighbourhood stores, including Urban Grocer, were featured in the exhibit “Not Just Apples and Oranges” which closed last month at the Galt, but are also included in the revised The Grocery List by Trish Purkis, available at the Galt Museum Store. For details visit www.galtmuseum.com.