SOBEYS 110 TIMELINE
Timothy Eaton opens his first store on Toronto’s Yonge Street.
The Founder is Born
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.
The Sobeys are ‘Home’
J.W. Sobey and his family arrive as newcomers in Nova Scotia, where the seeds of the first Sobeys grocery store would be planted.
Into the Food Business
J.W. Sobey hitches horse to a horse-drawn wagon 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.
A Real Family Business
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.
Frank Learns From the Best
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.
Buying Local and the Sobeys Personal Touch
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.
Promote from Within
To encourage skilled and caring management, Sobeys promotes employees who come up through the ranks and are imbued with the Sobeys culture.
Sobeys Pension Plan
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.’
Optimism and Confidence
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.
Still Buying Local & Star of Christmas
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.
Celebrating 110 Years
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.