Emory Zehr opened the first Zehrs shop in July of 1950, together with his sons Clifford and Lester. This Zehrs store was located at Kitchener, in the province of Ontario. Emory and his sons believed that putting themselves in their customers’ shoes would inspire them to provide the best customer service that they could possibly give.
The Zehrs business was originally a family-owned business with every one in the family helping out in the store. The Zehr brothers helped customers and stocked the shelves, while their mother Elva, was the store’s cashier. There was nothing fancy in the place; all product displays were considered very simple. What the store lacked in aesthetics it made up for in good value with its quality, fresh produce and meats. Customers who shopped at the store also felt welcomed because of its friendly atmosphere.
The owners’ philosophy on customer service, along with the low priced, good value products that the store offered, combined to make the store a hit to consumers in the area. In the same decade, the Zehrs decided to expand and add more stores aside from the one they already had running. By the 1960s, there were already six Zehrs stores in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.
In those times, the stores had also become bigger and were operating more like supermarkets rather than small grocery stores. After a short period, Zehrs expanded into the area of Guelph City. In 1963, Zehrs Markets was acquired by the Loblaw Companies, Ltd. The stores’ new owner continued the chain’s expansion in different parts of the province.
The 1970s was a time of economic challenges for Canada and its consumers were hit hard by inflation. Zehrs helped consumers as best as they could with their low-priced, good quality products. Despite those financially challenging times, the stores continued to expand, and even acquired Gordon’s Markets, an 11-outlet grocery chain. In the 1980s, Zehrs set-up a whole department dedicated to the market of bulk foods. This was the stores’ answer to the economic recession that had hit the country. At the same time, the stores added more services, like in-store pharmacies and photo labs.
Today, Zehrs continues to be one of the most successful supermarket chains in the area of South Ontario, with more than 40 stores in the region.
Headquarters: Brampton, Ontario
Ownership Type: A subsidiary of Loblaw Companies, Ltd.
Employees: Information not available
Geography: Canada (Southern Ontario)
Demography: Retail products consumers