Metro Vancouver-born T&T Supermarket expanding to Quebec

T&T Supermarket is opening its first store in Montreal, an expansion into yet another province for the Metro Vancouver-born company.

The grocery store, which specializes in Asian products, started in BC almost three decades ago with stores in Richmond and Burnaby.

“We would have never dreamt the business would be the size that it is today,” said Tina Lee, its CEO.

“It was a big deal to go to Alberta. And then it was an even bigger deal to go to Toronto. And now finally, we’re going into Montreal. So, we are so excited about it.”

Quebec will be the fourth province the business has entered into since its inception — behind BC, Alberta and Ontario.

The company was founded by Lee’s mom, Cindy Lee, in 1993 and has since grown into the largest Asian supermarket chain in Canada. It was purchased by Loblaw Companies in 2009. Cindy Lee remains on T&T’s board of directors.

T&T Supermarket was founded by Cindy Lee, second from the right, in 1993 and was passed on to Tina Lee, right. From left to right is Tina’s son, Kenji, Tina’s sister, Tiffany and Tina’s daughter, Kira. (Submitted by Loblaw Companies Limited)

The younger Lee says the specialty store provides a place for those new to the country to feel at home by having access to food they are familiar with.

“When you walk down the aisle as a new immigrant, you walk down the aisle of a T&T, and stuff literally jumps off the shelf at you, because you get this moment of nostalgia when you see a brand from your childhood,” she told CBCNews.

“Food brings us together. It connects us together. And I think in some odd way, by default, I’d like to think that T&T is that bridge between the Chinese-Canadian, Asian-Canadian and the rest of the Canadian community. “

Kaan Yigit, research director and president of Solutions Research Group, a firm that collects consumer research and insights, says he’s surprised it took this long for T&T to get into the Quebec market, as he sees a great need there for diverse grocery stores.

“When we look at the last 10 years, especially, we’ve seen a strong number of immigrants coming to Quebec, about 400,000, and many of them are deciding to move to the Greater Montreal area. So from that standpoint, a T&T store makes a lot of sense,” he said.

He believes the expansion into Quebec will be successful, saying stores like T&T act as a gathering place for those new to the country.

“Newcomers to Canada, in particular, especially the first five to 10 years, are on one hand adapting to their new country and culture, but at the same time, want to be able to enjoy what they’re used to from where they came from, from home,” he said.

“So that’s food, that’s music, that’s television shows. And food is really, really significant.”

Lee says she is just proud to introduce a diversity of food to Montreal and even recruited what will be the third generation of women involved in the company to help with the announcement.

“My daughter Kira, who is learning French, did our video introduction, video announcement for our store in Montreal and grandma and grandpa totally are loving it that we can embrace this new language and bring our culture into the Quebec culture and have the next generation support us in doing so,” she said.

“The next generation is also starting to tiptoe into the T&T business.”

Although a location has yet to be determined, the new store is expected to open in Montreal within the next two years.

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