Sobeys 110 Timeline

Since 1907, Sobeys has been a proud part of the evolution of Canadian history and values. In celebration of Canada’s 150th and our 110th, join us in looking back at some key moments in both the history of Canada, and of Sobeys.

Eaton’s Opens

Timothy Eaton opens his first store on Toronto’s Yonge Street.


Alexander Graham Bell speaks the first words ever heard on the telephone and later makes the first call from one building to another at Mt. Pleasant, Ont.

O Canada

O Canada is first performed at a banquet attended by the governor general and founder of The Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, the Marquis of Lorne.

The Champagne of Ginger Ales

Chemist and pharmacist John J. McLaughlin trademarks his recipe for Belfast-style ginger ale. He calls it Canada Dry, now known worldwide as the ‘champagne of ginger ales.’

Titanic Sinks

The Titanic hits an iceberg 590 km south of Newfoundland on its maiden transatlantic voyage.

The Flag and Foster

The Canadian Red Ensign is approved as the official flag for government buildings at home and abroad, and Foster Hewitt is broadcasting hockey games. The Toronto Granite Club wins an Olympic gold medal in ice hockey at Chamonix beating the U.S.

Christmas Parade

Eaton’s holds its first Christmas parade in Montréal, with 1,100 children participating. It became an annual event, held on the third Saturday of November until 1968. In Newfoundland, women over 25 years of age gain the right to vote and to stand for political office.

Old-age Pension and the Leafs

The House of Commons approves the old-age pension plan, and the Toronto St. Patricks hockey team is renamed the Maple Leafs.

Getting Inventive

The Great Depression hits Canada and food is scarce. Home cooks get creative with inventions like mock sausage filled with mashed beans and breadcrumbs.

Canada’s Food Rules

Wartime rationing leads to poor eating habits, so the country introduces Canada’s Food Rules. Sample guideline: a serving each of potatoes and tomatoes to be eaten daily.

War Brides

The ship Mauretania docks in Halifax, carrying 943 war brides and children from England who entered Canada through Pier 21.

Long Live the Queen

At just 25 years of age, Princess Elizabeth becomes Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of — among other places — Canada.

Old-Age Security

A new Old-Age Security Ace comes into effect, providing universal pensions to those 70 and over.

Equal Pay

The federal government passes a law guaranteeing equal pay for women doing ‘identical or substantially identical’ work as men.

St. Lawrence Seaway

Queen Elizabeth II and U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower dedicate the St. Lawrence Seaway and it opens to commercial shipping.

Trans-Canada Highway

The Trans-Canada Highway is officially opened.

Jenkins Pitches

Canadian pitcher Ferguson Jenkins makes his professional debut with the Philadelphia Phillies against the St Louis Cardinals.

Canada 100

Canada’s centennial celebration is launched with a ceremony in Ottawa, during which PM Pearson lights the Centennial Flame at the entrance to Parliament Hill.

World Champion

Vancouver-born Karen Magnussen wins the World Women’s Figure Skating Championships in Bratislava in what was then Czechoslovakia.

Marathon of Hope

Terry Fox begins his Marathon of Hope in St. John’s, NL, on April 12th. The run ends September 1st in Thunder Bay and more than $10 million is raised.

Yukon Gold Standard

A small yellow potato, bred by researchers at Guelph University, hits the market with the name Yukon Gold. This all-purpose variety becomes the gold standard for spud lovers everywhere.

Gretzky gone

Wayne Gretzky is traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles.

Girl Guide Cookies

Girl Guides of Canada finally offers its chocolate-covered mint cookies in all provinces in 1995. Families and neighbours across the country rejoice.

Million Dollar Coin

The Royal Canadian Mint produces the world’s first Million Dollar Coin, made from pure gold bullion. Weighing in at 100 kg, the coin was certified by Guinness World Records to be the world’s largest gold coin.

Canada Welcomes Syrian Refugees

Canada begins welcoming Syrian refugees, who introduce foods like jamaz (eggs served in tomato sauce) and fattet el makdous (crispy pita with eggplant and yogurt) to the Canadian palate.

Penny Oleksiak

Swimmer Penny Oleksiak, 16, becomes the first Canadian to win four medals at a Summer Olympic Games.

Celebrating 150 Years

Canada marks 150 years since Confederation – and looks forward to many more milestones celebrating what it means to be Canadian.

  • The Founder is Born

    John William (J.W.) Sobey is born in Aldershot, England, third child and first son to William and Janet, and the future founder of Sobeys grocery store.

  • The Sobeys are ‘Home’

    J.W. Sobey and his family arrive as newcomers in Nova Scotia, where the seeds of the first Sobeys grocery store would be planted.

  • Family Foundations

    J.W. is brought up in the Scottish tradition of his mother, Janet: loyalty, self-reliance, industry, neighbourliness, social responsibility, community service and a belief in education. These values would become the foundation of the Sobeys family business culture.


  • Into the Food Business

    J.W. Sobey hitches horse to a horse-drawn wagon to start a meat-delivery business in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. He had no way of knowing at the time, but this marks the beginning of a nationwide grocery chain.

  • The First Sobeys is Built

    J.W. builds a store in Stellarton to sell to walk-in traffic, and expands his offerings to first include local vegetables, dairy and fish products, and then later oats, hay and other animal feed, kerosene, and staple food products.


  • A Real Family Business

    J.W. and his son Frank formalize their business partnership, and Frank persuades his father to carry a full line of groceries, including exotic imported goods. Frank marries Irene MacDonald and the third generation in the business soon follows: William MacDonald in 1927, David Frank in 1931, Donald Rae in 1934, and Dianne in 1939.


  • Frank Learns From the Best

    Although he had attended business school, Frank credits local farmers for his business acumen. “I learned more about sound business practices as a … young man dealing with farmers than I could have learned any other place. … There’s no other way to survive the risks of farming. Perhaps without being aware … the successful farmer was a cost accountant as well as hardworking agriculturist …” Frank opens Sobeys #2 store in New Glasgow.


  • Competitive Climate

    J.W. and Frank compete with several similar grocery stores in the local market of four towns. To draw customers, their advertising slogans and sketches emphasize Sobeys quality, value, and local products.


  • Buying Local and the Sobeys Personal Touch

    Like his father, Frank bought local even if it cost a bit more. “They’re worth it.” Frank always said of farmers. For more than 25 years, Frank drove 60 km to buy customers’ Christmas turkeys, as many as 3,500 a season. Sobeys was still using local suppliers 80 years later, buying fresh, grain-fed turkeys from Larkin Brothers in P.E.I.


  • The Women Take Charge

    Women are hired to manage Sobeys stores during the Second World War. While the men would eventually return, the company continues to place women in management positions.


  • Dreams Come True

    After years of dedication and hard work, Frank incorporates Sobeys Stores Limited.


  • Promote from Within

    To encourage skilled and caring management, Sobeys promotes employees who come up through the ranks and are imbued with the Sobeys culture.


  • Sobeys Pension Plan

    Frank Sobey initiates a pension plan for Sobeys employees, stating that ‘These are the people who built the business. They deserve a share in the profits.’

  • New Stores, New Ideas

    With stores in Yarmouth and Amherst, Sobeys spans Nova Scotia. It moves into New Brunswick with a Saint John location. Store openings are big local events creating lots of buzz with gate-crasher specials, gifts, and contests. Hundreds of people would line up to get in.


  • Stock Report

    Sobeys issues its first annual report and initiates its initial public offering.


  • Sobeys Maritimes Success

    Sobeys has 39 stores in the Maritime provinces, with 525 full-time and 415 part-time employees.


  • ‘Meats with Everyone’s Approval’

    A new slogan & jingle takes Sobeys back to its beginnings in the meat business. Quality meat products have remained a Sobeys trademark.


  • Company Health Plan

    Sobeys introduces comprehensive employee health and disability plans.


  • Optimism and Confidence

    Sobeys now has 64 supermarkets in Atlantic Canada and Quebec.The company and its employees are confident in the future. The chain modernizes its look with a new logo and updates store attire. A new promotional theme reflects this optimism: “It’s Our Year,” and “We Can Prove It”, along with a new jingle, “Sobeys On The Move”. Sobeys signs an affirmative action agreement with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission committing to actively recruit minority group employees.



  • Recognition and Training

    Provincial and overall Manager-of-the-Year awards are presented at annual managers’ conferences. The conferences, which began in 1967, were occasions for training and development; educating employees was always a company priority.




  • 6,970 Employees

    Sobeys grows out of the Maritimes and into Ontario, with its first store in Guelph in 1987. At this point, it has 6,970 employees and offers 250 private-label items.


  • Star of Christmas

    The Sobeys ‘Star of Christmas’ video and jingle are launched in the Atlantic region, celebrating Sobeys having become a staple for the holiday season. The jingle becomes a major hit.



  • 1,392 Stores, 32,000 Employees

    Sobeys, now 32,000 people strong, introduces the Our Compliments store brand to its shelves. Shoppers get quality selection with a bonus – reasonable prices.


  • Sobeys at 100, Best Place to Work

    A century has passed since J.W. Sobey left the carpentry trade for the meat and later grocery business, and Sobeys is recognized as one of the best work environments in Canada.


  • Better Food for Special Olympians

    Sobeys Inc. Better Food Fund (founded in 2014) teams up with Special Olympics, and hundreds of employees and stores volunteer to provide nutrition education for Canadians with intellectual disabilities.


  • Still Buying Local & Star of Christmas

    It’s Christmas 2016, and Sobeys is still supporting local suppliers. The company commits to buy 80 per cent of beef for P.E.I. stores from Atlantic Beef Products. The heartfelt ‘Star of Christmas’ jingle from 1988 is updated and relaunched to the delight of many.



  • Celebrating 110 Years

    Sobeys celebrates 110 years of filling Canadians’ grocery carts, and continues to serve its communities. It also partners with the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax to add stories to the country’s immigration archive.