Since 1907, Sobeys has been a proud part of the evolution of Canadian history and values. In celebration of Canada’s 150th and our 110th, join us in looking back at some key moments in both the history of Canada, and of Sobeys.
Timothy Eaton opens his first store on Toronto’s Yonge Street.
Alexander Graham Bell speaks the first words ever heard on the telephone and later makes the first call from one building to another at Mt. Pleasant, Ont.
O Canada is first performed at a banquet attended by the governor general and founder of The Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, the Marquis of Lorne.
Chemist and pharmacist John J. McLaughlin trademarks his recipe for Belfast-style ginger ale. He calls it Canada Dry, now known worldwide as the ‘champagne of ginger ales.’
The Titanic hits an iceberg 590 km south of Newfoundland on its maiden transatlantic voyage.
The Canadian Red Ensign is approved as the official flag for government buildings at home and abroad, and Foster Hewitt is broadcasting hockey games. The Toronto Granite Club wins an Olympic gold medal in ice hockey at Chamonix beating the U.S.
Eaton’s holds its first Christmas parade in Montréal, with 1,100 children participating. It became an annual event, held on the third Saturday of November until 1968. In Newfoundland, women over 25 years of age gain the right to vote and to stand for political office.
The House of Commons approves the old-age pension plan, and the Toronto St. Patricks hockey team is renamed the Maple Leafs.
The Great Depression hits Canada and food is scarce. Home cooks get creative with inventions like mock sausage filled with mashed beans and breadcrumbs.
Wartime rationing leads to poor eating habits, so the country introduces Canada’s Food Rules. Sample guideline: a serving each of potatoes and tomatoes to be eaten daily.
The ship Mauretania docks in Halifax, carrying 943 war brides and children from England who entered Canada through Pier 21.
At just 25 years of age, Princess Elizabeth becomes Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of — among other places — Canada.
A new Old-Age Security Ace comes into effect, providing universal pensions to those 70 and over.
The federal government passes a law guaranteeing equal pay for women doing ‘identical or substantially identical’ work as men.
Queen Elizabeth II and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower dedicate the St. Lawrence Seaway and it opens to commercial shipping.
The Trans-Canada Highway is officially opened.
Canadian pitcher Ferguson Jenkins makes his professional debut with the Philadelphia Phillies against the St Louis Cardinals.
Canada’s centennial celebration is launched with a ceremony in Ottawa, during which PM Pearson lights the Centennial Flame at the entrance to Parliament Hill.
Vancouver-born Karen Magnussen wins the World Women’s Figure Skating Championships in Bratislava in what was then Czechoslovakia.
Terry Fox begins his Marathon of Hope in St. John’s, NL, on April 12th. The run ends September 1st in Thunder Bay and more than $10 million is raised.
A small yellow potato, bred by researchers at Guelph University, hits the market with the name Yukon Gold. This all-purpose variety becomes the gold standard for spud lovers everywhere.
Wayne Gretzky is traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles.
Girl Guides of Canada finally offers its chocolate-covered mint cookies in all provinces in 1995. Families and neighbours across the country rejoice.
The Royal Canadian Mint produces the world’s first Million Dollar Coin, made from pure gold bullion. Weighing in at 100 kg, the coin was certified by Guinness World Records to be the world’s largest gold coin.
Canada begins welcoming Syrian refugees, who introduce foods like jamaz (eggs served in tomato sauce) and fattet el makdous (crispy pita with eggplant and yogurt) to the Canadian palate.
Swimmer Penny Oleksiak, 16, becomes the first Canadian to win four medals at a Summer Olympic Games.
Canada marks 150 years since Confederation – and looks forward to many more milestones celebrating what it means to be Canadian.
John William (J.W.) Sobey is born in Aldershot, England, third child and first son to William and Janet, and the future founder of Sobeys grocery store.
J.W. Sobey and his family arrive as newcomers in Nova Scotia, where the seeds of the first Sobeys grocery store would be planted.
J.W. is brought up in the Scottish tradition of his mother, Janet: loyalty, self-reliance, industry, neighbourliness, social responsibility, community service and a belief in education. These values would become the foundation of the Sobeys family business culture.
J.W. Sobey hitches horse to cart to start a meat-delivery business in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. He had no way of knowing at the time, but this marks the beginning of a nationwide grocery chain.
J.W. builds a store in Stellarton to sell to walk-in traffic, and expands his offerings to first include local vegetables, dairy and fish products, and then later oats, hay and other animal feed, kerosene, and staple food products.
J.W. and his son Frank formalize their business partnership, and Frank persuades his father to carry a full line of groceries, including exotic imported goods. Frank marries Irene MacDonald and the third generation in the business soon follows: William MacDonald in 1927, David Frank in 1931, Donald Rae in 1934, and Dianne in 1939.
Although he had attended business school, Frank credits local farmers for his business acumen. “I learned more about sound business practices as a … young man dealing with farmers than I could have learned any other place. … There’s no other way to survive the risks of farming. Perhaps without being aware … the successful farmer was a cost accountant as well as hardworking agriculturist …” Frank opens Sobeys #2 store in New Glasgow.
J.W. and Frank compete with several similar grocery stores in the local market of four towns. To draw customers, their advertising slogans and sketches emphasize Sobeys quality, value, and local products.
Like his father, Frank bought local even if it cost a bit more. “They’re worth it.” Frank always said of farmers. For more than 25 years, Frank drove 60 km to buy customers’ Christmas turkeys, as many as 3,500 a season. Sobeys was still using local suppliers 80 years later, buying fresh, grain-fed turkeys from Larkin Brothers in P.E.I.
Women are hired to manage Sobeys stores during the Second World War. While the men would eventually return, the company continues to place women in management positions.
After years of dedication and hard work, Frank incorporates Sobeys Stores Limited.
To encourage skilled and caring management, Sobeys promotes employees who come up through the ranks and are imbued with the Sobeys culture.
Frank Sobey initiates a pension plan for Sobeys employees, stating that ‘These are the people who built the business. They deserve a share in the profits.’
With stores in Yarmouth and Amherst, Sobeys spans Nova Scotia. It moves into New Brunswick with a Saint John location. Store openings are big local events creating lots of buzz with gate-crasher specials, gifts, and contests. Hundreds of people would line up to get in.
Sobeys issues its first annual report and initiates its initial public offering.
Sobeys has 39 stores in the Maritime provinces, with 525 full-time and 415 part-time employees.
A new slogan & jingle takes Sobeys back to its beginnings in the meat business. Quality meat products have remained a Sobeys trademark.
Sobeys introduces comprehensive employee health and disability plans.
Sobeys now has 64 supermarkets in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.The company and its employees are confident in the future. The chain modernizes its look with a new logo and updates store attire. A new promotional theme reflects this optimism: “It’s Our Year,” and “We Can Prove It”, along with a new jingle, “Sobeys On The Move”. Sobeys signs an affirmative action agreement with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission committing to actively recruit minority group employees.
Sobeys, now 32,000 people strong, introduces the Our Compliments store brand to its shelves. Shoppers get quality selection with a bonus – reasonable prices.
A century has passed since J.W. Sobey left the carpentry trade for the meat and later grocery business, and Sobeys is recognized as one of the best work environments in Canada.
Sobeys Inc. Better Food Fund (founded in 2014) teams up with Special Olympics, and hundreds of employees and stores volunteer to provide nutrition education for Canadians with intellectual disabilities.
It’s Christmas 2016, and Sobeys is still supporting local suppliers. The company commits to buy 80 per cent of beef for P.E.I. stores from Atlantic Beef Products. The heartfelt ‘Star of Christmas’ jingle from 1988 is updated and relaunched to the delight of many.
Sobeys celebrates 110 years of filling Canadians’ grocery carts, and continues to serve its communities. It also partners with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax to add stories to the country’s immigration archive.