Cantor’s Grocery Company Ltd.

Quality, value-oriented groceries in Winnipeg, Manitoba
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Dana Merk-Wynne

For three generations, Cantor’s Grocery Company Ltd. has been serving the residents of Winnipeg, Manitoba, with quality meats, groceries and dry goods. What began as a small grocery store in the living room of a family of Polish immigrants in 1927 has grown to a beloved landmark. Ed Cantor, third generation owner and president of Cantor’s Grocery, says people from the city and surrounding areas know that the establishment is synonymous with high-quality meat, fresh produce, reliable inventory and first-class service.

Ed’s grandfather built up inventory in the early days by bartering food products with farmers in the countryside. The family opened its first storefront in 1944 in Winnipeg and operated out of the same location for 65 years before building a new 13,000-square-foot location in 2009.

Best meat on the market

Meat has long been a focal point for Cantor’s Grocery. “Chains focus on the groceries and not the meat, whereas Cantor’s is the other way around,” says Ed. “Everything is fresh and we have never had reduced prices because of age.”

The family-owned grocery brings in fresh meat every day, butchering in-house to provide custom, high-quality cuts of meat. The business has longstanding relationships with cattle producers all over the province and turns over approximately 10 whole animals every day. With custom meat cutting as well as delivery service, Cantor’s Grocery stands out from competing grocers lined with coolers of frozen meat slabs.

The meat department offers a wide range of products to Cantor’s Grocery’s loyal customer base. The store’s popular meats include steak – from sirloin to porterhouse, as well as ribs, cold cuts and hamburgers. “One of our newer, more popular items is Miami ribs,” says Ed. This cut descends from the Korean style rib, which is off the beef finger bone, and we cut them into Miami ribs that are like a longer short rib. They are very popular right now.”

Where customers come first

Taking care of customers has long been a foundational value of Cantor’s Grocery. Serving shoppers and providing them with value and fair prices is a family tradition. Ed’s father, Joe, who ran Cantor’s Grocery up until his passing in 2013, frequently pushed the envelope by fighting for fair prices for his customers.

In the late 1980s, Joe ran into trouble selling quarts of milk for $0.16 less than the minimum allowed by law at the time. He dug in his heels and aided in changing price minimum legislation across Canada, all to better serve his loyal customers.

More recently, he stood up against the Freshwater Fish Marketing Board in order to provide customers with seafood fresh from the dock instead of sourced through a distributor – allowing the family to pass savings along to customers while giving local fishermen a bigger cut by buying wholesale.

Ed continues this tradition, maintaining a retail atmosphere that respects the needs of customers and seeks to deliver the necessities at a fair price and at higher quality than competitors. Having begun his career with the family operation at 14, he knows what it takes to run a strong grocery store and keep customers coming back.

“People are getting tired of dealing with chain stores and the cost versus quality of the meat,” he explains. “Sobeys buying out Safeway has made a mess of the chain stores and there is no loyalty there anymore. People are really looking to support the local companies even more so now.”

“We have great customer service and our employees actually talk to the customers,” Ed continues. “It’s really about having personal relationships with customers as opposed to having employees feeling like they will get in trouble with their managers if they aren’t doing their jobs. A family business has such a different feel than a corporate atmosphere.”

While providing quality meats, affordable groceries and great customer service at home is paramount to the success of Cantor’s Grocery at home, the company is extending its reach. Cantor’s Grocery now ships a significant amount of food items to Thompson, Manitoba, via carrier.

“People can’t afford to buy meat up there because of transportation,” explains Ed. “So we charge an extra $0.50 for transportation and sell it up there for a reasonable price. We have a depot up there that holds the product and people can go through the center and pick up their meat. We’ve been doing it for about three years.”

While steady growth is a constant focus of the company, Ed says he and his team have no major expansions planned. Looking ahead, Cantor’s Grocery Company Ltd. will continue to serve as a leader in service and quality in Winnipeg’s local grocery market.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
MacDonald's Consolidated
Old Dutch Foods Ltd.
Winnipeg Old Country Sausage Company Ltd