‘Part of Canada’s DNA’: Growth of culturally diverse grocery stores in Newmarket points to growth of many ethnicities

Afshin Yazdani owns Paeez Fine Foods in Newmarket. June 15, 2022

As Afshin Yazdani braced for a rush of customers ahead of Canada Day on July 1, he spoke of the cultural mix of people who regularly come to his Newmarket grocery store.

Yazdani is the owner of Paeez Fine Foods, which offers groceries and Persian goods, as well as a hot table from its location at 17440 Yonge Street.

Paeez, which opened on November 1, is one of several multicultural grocery and grocery stores launched in Newmarket over the past two years, indicating a growing population from many ethnic backgrounds.

“All cultures come here and love the store. I’m happy about it because I did something for the city, for the people, I created jobs, for my own people and for other cultures,” Yazdani said. “The food industry is all about delicious things. If something is delicious, it doesn’t matter your culture. When other cultures, Canadian and otherwise, try our foods and our products, and they love it, I love it.

Likewise, Yazdani, who came to Canada from Iran more than 20 years ago and moved to Newmarket five years ago, enjoys tasting foods and produce from all cultures.

Yazdani laughs as he recounts how everyone called him an idiot for opening his grocery store during the pandemic, but he’s thrilled the community embraced him.

Newmarket has welcomed a “significant number” of new culturally diverse grocery stores over the past two years, Mayor John Taylor said. “It reflects the growing diversity of our community. I’ve been to a lot of these new grocery stores and you see people from different demographics shopping there because it’s an opportunity for people to explore food from different cultures and a lot of people are taking that opportunity,” a- he declared. “I strongly believe that diversity is a strength of Newmarket, York Region and Canada. We are growing and diversifying more and more.

In addition to Paeez, Newmarket’s miscellaneous grocery list includes Panchratna Supermarket, T&T Supermarket, Ranch Fresh Supermarket, JB Supermarket, Win Kuang Asian Foods, Vatan Fine Foods, Golsun Fine Food, Alianza Latina Convenience Store, British Fine Foods and Bakery and Cotswold Cottage.

The growing cultural diversity of Newmarket’s population is highlighted by the June 28 opening of the Center for Immigrant and Community Services (CICS). This is their eighth location at 130 Mulock Dr. The settlement services agency has served communities in the Greater Toronto Area for over 50 years.

“If you look at the list of fastest growing municipalities in Canada, you will notice two things. First, none of the major Canadian cities of Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal top the list,” said CISC CEO Alfred Lam. “We are seeing the strongest growth in medium-sized cities and towns across the country. Second, there is a correlation between the growth of these cities and increases in population diversity, suggesting that newcomer populations are driving much of this growth. Newmarket is a perfect example of both phenomena.

The growth of culturally diverse grocery stores is a “great indicator” of a growing newcomer population, Lam said. “Diversity and inclusion are woven into the fabric of Canada’s national identity, our DNA if you will,” he added. “It strengthens its economy, enriches its culture and becomes a destination of choice for anyone looking for a place to raise their family. We envision that our Newmarket center will benefit the community by becoming a space and platform for people from all walks of life to come together and put the concepts of inclusion and diversity into action.

While diversity information from the latest Canadian census will not be released until October 26, the 2016 census shows that Newmarket has residents of countries around the world, including China, Iran, the Philippines, Brazil, India, South Korea, United Kingdom, Israel, Russian Federation, Ukraine, Moldova, Nigeria, United States, Iraq, Pakistan, Colombia, Vietnam, Syria, Mexico, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Japan, Egypt and Afghanistan.

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Journalist Lisa Queen has noticed the growth of culturally diverse grocery stores in Newmarket over the past two years. Around Canada Day seemed like the perfect time to celebrate the city’s diversity.

James C. Tibbs