Trevor’s Your Independent Grocer (Uptown)
Nutshell: The city’s default grocery store.
What Shopping There Says About You: “I frequently exchange money for food.”
Ambience: International functional, late-stage capitalism.
One of two Yellowknife locations for the Loblaw’s-connected Your Independent Grocer franchise, Trevor’s uptown location is larger than Glen’s downtown, with a considerably wider range of products/brands, prepared meals and just a smidge more swank than the downtown locale. As with both locations, a 2013 rebrand/upgrade from the discount/bargain-basement feel of their Extra Foods roots seems to have greatly improved morale all-around, but even if you’ve never been to Trevor’s, you’ve been here. It’s a quintessential 21st century consumer experience — one that the chain’s online FAQ, with its all-caps queries, offers brief but piercing insights into:
MY STORE REARRANGED EVERYTHING AND NOW I CAN’T FIND THE PRODUCTS I PURCHASED REGULARLY?
WHY DO CASHIERS NO LONGER PACKAGE MY GROCERIES?
WHY CAN’T I RETURN MY PURCHASE AT SUPERSTORE WHEN I BOUGHT IT AT LOBLAWS, THEY BELONG TO THE SAME COMPANY?
That’s some heavy shit, man.
Glen’s Your Independent Grocer (Downtown)
Nutshell: Location, location, etc.
What Shopping There Says About You: You don’t have a car/You are a bored, hungry Asian tourist.
Ambience: Since that much-needed reno/branding change in 2013, the place feels much less like it’s being managed by Snake “Escape From New York” Plissken.
Back in the old Extra Foods days, the downtown locale was infamous for limited options and an overall air of expired meats and dairy. Now it’s the land of President’s Choice, and all about the ongoing massification of foodie culture and boomer-targeted marketing of neo-colonial nostalgia (cf. Consuming Otherness: Loblaws and Specular Consumption, C. Sachetti, 2011; Totem: The University of Western Ontario Journal of Anthropology).
Nutshell: Join our club
What Shopping There Says About You: “I am a member-owner.”
Ambience: A big box, dotted with artfully arranged produce. The book-swap corner and frequent presence of fundraising community groups hark back to the store’s communal origins.
Since its start in 1981 serving 36 families, the Yellowknife Co-Op has become a much slicker, multi-faceted affair, especially since its 2004 expansion to 55K square feet. Membership — now in the thousands — has its privileges still, but today’s thoroughly modernized Co-Op is a far cry from its origins. Huh. Kind of a textbook example of the commodification of the social contract and the subjugation of progressive ideals by market forces, when you think about it. Some of what I just typed may not be English. No way to tell.
Nutshell: Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?
What Shopping There Says About You: When someone asks “Who the hell buys this stuff?” — you are the answer.
Ambience: Shiny, expensive specialist grocery store, but stuck in a ’90s mall.
Listen, we live in the sub-Arctic, so if we want to eat like upscale foodies just back from two weeks in Tuscany, we are going to have to go ahead and pay through the nose for it. Also, the only remotely decent cheese/cured meats selection in town.
Nutshell: Time is a flat circle.
What Shopping There Says About You: You despise the good things in life. Or, you are just trying to stretch a dollar.
Ambience: Medicated zombie apocalypse.
A limited selection of carb-based boxed and canned foodstuffs, useful for stockpiling when inevitable societal collapse, hastened by the spread of community-eviscerating businesses like this one, blessedly strikes us all.
What Shopping There Says About You: You like things that taste good.
Ambience: Surprise-filled mom and pop corner store.
Sooner or later, curious Yellowknife cooks discover Kim’s, an unassuming Asian grocery store across the street from Northern United Place. It’s got all the usual dubious conveniences of a convenience store — lotto, cigarettes, chips, etc. — but it also has a deep and eclectic collection of Asian ingredients. Next to the Mr Freezies, a pile of frozen dim-sum-style duck feet and glutinous rice balls; beneath the Swanson pot pies, a shelf full of sweet and hot Filipino-style longaniza. Need canned vegetarian Peking duck? A giant jar of kimchi? Fresh lemongrass? Kim’s is the place. And since last year, it also offers another surprise — great Vietnamese take-out (featuring banh mi —Vietnamese subs — on Fridays and Saturdays).
Weaver and Devore
Nutshell: Your newfangled modern ways confuse and scare me.
What Shopping There Says About You: You are in Old Town, and/or headed for the bush.
Ambience: Ye Olde General Store.
The food selection is an afterthought at this YK institution, and leans towards last-minute, don’t-want-to-go-up-the-hill selections like crackers, canned stew and slightly sad produce. If you want to shop like you’re in old-timey Yellowknife and you’d like a bear-scarer along with your Dinty Moore’s, venerable old W&D is the place. Plus, if you time it right you get to meet a selection of Old Town’s remaining coots and curmudgeons.