In the old days you knew the grocer by name


How many Leasiders today can walk into their supermarket and know the name of the manager, let alone have an everyday conversation with him or her? Are most Leasiders even loyal to a single grocery store now?

In the good old days, if you were a customer at Leaside Groceteria, you would have answered yes because of the welcoming environment created by William Flanagan, his wife Muriel, and their two boys, Gordon and David.

That was a little over half a century ago, so many Leasiders would remember the little store on McRae, next to the Leaside fire hall, no larger than 50 by 25 feet.

They were open Monday to Saturday from 9 to 6 and although most grocery stores would not stay open late Friday nights, the Flanagans did, to 9, to help customers because stores were closed Sundays.

William Flanagan and his mother
William Flanagan and his mother

From 1947 to 1968, when the mega-store chains were just starting to become prominent, the Flanagans sold and delivered groceries to families in the neighbourhood.

It was before the extensive variety in both fresh and shelved goods that we’re accustomed to today. While the Flanagans sold cooled fruit and vegetables, canned goods, and fresh bakery goods, they were most famous for their high-quality meats.

Though the family hired a full time butcher, it would not be uncommon to see William help out when the times got busy.

The business was hard work: William and Muriel worked all day at the store and their boys helped out once school was done.

David, now a real estate agent in Leaside and Central Toronto, recalls that once home, he would hop on his bike to make deliveries, sometimes to Thorncliffe and haul two cartons of pop.

Customers were loyal and they enjoyed catching up with the family as they shopped.

Muriel Flanagan
Muriel Flanagan

With about five other grocery stores in the area at the beginning, competition was low, but over the years it became fiercer. In 1968, William and Muriel decided to sell and get out of the business before it got too late. They sold the store to the butcher that supplied them with their meats. Today, Leasiders will recognize the Daisy Mart convenience store in its place.

But the Flanagans liked Leaside. There have now been three generations who have lived and worked here.

William wanted to become more involved in the church and became a minister here. His wife Muriel worked for the Bay in the high end ladies wear department called The Room. The two passed away peacefully at 95 and 91.

Gordon became involved in politics. He worked behind the scenes and helped run campaigns. Working with customers in the Groceteria had taught him how to talk and communicate with people.

Looking back on his experiences, David now attributes his success as a real estate agent to the personal skills and values, such as how to treat people properly, to the environment he grew up in.