It has been 11 years since the Barn at York and Hess Streets was closed, depriving Hamilton of its last downtown grocery store. Observers at the time saw the move as the kiss of death for a downtown that had struggled to stay commercially viable in the wake of suburban shopping malls and big-box complexes. So there is understandable excitement that Nations Fresh Foods will open a 55,000 square foot full service grocery store in Jackson Square in May. Nations is an upscale offshoot of the Oceans Fresh Group with operates three stores in the GTA. The Hamilton Nations Store will the second opening  after the first store was opened amid much fanfare last August in Vaughan.

Described in Canadian Grocer Magazine as “ a high end designer concept store,” Nations is looking to cater to all “nations”, including European, Middle Eastern, Caribbean and Asian customers.“We don’t have a competitor,” said Nation’s Vaughan store manager Ken Zhen. “We serve both old and new immigrants.” Its expected the same concept will apply in Hamilton, where in a addition to all of the basic grocery staples, shoppers will be able to experience foods, meat, fish and produce from around the world. Jackson Square manager Scott Kyle, says the Hamilton store will feature  a 1,000 square foot fresh fish room, an on-site bakery and an in-store cafe.

business downtown food map

The arrival of Nations is good news for Jackson Square which struggled for years from the shift in Canadian urban shopping patterns, seeing what had started out as a high fashion mall become one dominated by lower-end retail. Yale properties, owners of Jackson Square continued to invest in the property through the bad years, rebuilding the food court and sprucing up the exterior. Scott Kyle says Nations makes sense economically in 2013 because of the amount of condo development that has taken place in the last year coupled with more than 1,100 new units that are either under construction or on their way. “it is probably the most active period of construction we’ve seen since the 1970’s,” he notes. “There seems to be  a renewed sense of enthusiasm and hope, in the downtown.” He points to developments like the new health campus, hotel and condo developments by Vrancor, and the resurgence of James Street North as signs that the tide has turned.

There is another reason Nations is good news for Jackson Square. Since the announcement of its arrival, potential tenants are starting to take another look at Jackson Square. Buffalo’s legendary Anchor Bar, (reputed to be where chicken wings got their start) announced it intention to occupy the Old Walt’s Beanery site in Jackson Square. “We’re getting a lot of interesting inquiries about the property,” says Scott, “the future looks bright.”

Steven Spriensma is a journalist and former news editor at Ignite News. He has a degree in Geography from McMaster University and an advanced diploma in journalism from Mohawk College.

7 Comments to: Finally a food store in downtown Hamilton

  1. Mike L

    February 15th, 2013

    I’m never sure why the Fortino’s on Dundurn, a whopping 1.5 kms from King and Bay, is made out to be 15 miles away! And becareful what you wish for as Nations is an Asian centric grocery firm that doesn’t take credit/debit at their Vaughn store. If you google their website, the flyer is mainly asian food. Chicken feet anyone?

    • momar

      March 5th, 2013

      I live in dowtown hamilton and believe this was very much needed in the dowtown core fortinos is located on a busy intersection on both sides with traffic going onramp or offramp of the highway and is not pedestrian friendly. most people living in the countless apartments in the dowtown area who do not have access to a vehicle will definitely be happy to see a supermarket in the dowtown core. this is good for hamilton dowtown which needs the facelift.

  2. April 30th, 2013

    Doesn’t anyone wonder what this will do to the vendors who already struggle in the Farmers Market/Jackson square complex?
    Why do other shops in the mall that sell produce have to close when the market is closed? – will the same rules apply to the new Grocery store? Not likely!
    I’m not against a grocery store for the basics – as that was a missing component, even a few health food items would be great, but a ” 1,000 square foot fresh fish room, an on-site bakery and an in-store cafe” are already available in the Farmers Market (which has a barely visible sign and visitors are unlikely to find the place even as they drive past it) I would love to see the existing Market shops and stalls get as much coverage as a wing chain, a Grocery store chain and a casino. Learn to love what is already there Hamilton – there is a magic formula going on and all the hype about big chains is likely to upset the balance of that ecosystem.

    • Patrick

      May 3rd, 2013

      Don’t be fooled…many of those vendors in the market are not growing the food they sell…they are going to the same place the the big chains go to buy the produce.

      • Victoria

        June 18th, 2013

        Well said, Patrick. I was very disappointed during my few recent visits to the “new” farmers market…poorly organized stalls that carry very little local or home grown produce at the same or sometimes more expensive prices. I have been going to the farmers market since it was located outdoors in the parking garage area of what is now the Hamilton Eaton Centre (sans Eatons.) It is now so far away from what I would call a farmer’s market. There use to be a huge variety of stalls to choose from, most of the food was produced by the vendors, and rarely would you find store-bought pre-packaged items. Most vendors sell a majority of packaged foods and a lot of their fresh produce is purchased by the same means I would use purchase in a grocery store with their origins not even from within our own country! Farmers markets were meant to allow local farming communities to come into a larger city to sell their excess produce, not for any Joe Schmo to buy up all the beats at a local grocery store and set up shop to mark them up and sell them as their own.

  3. Deb E

    January 20th, 2014

    No where in my searching of the articles on Nations Fresh Foods in Jackson Square are the hours of operation even mentioned.

    Tried to go on the stores website to only get the weekly flyer! NO hours operation mentioned at all.


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