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'Part of Canada's DNA': Newmarket's growth of culturally diverse grocery stores points to growth of many ethnicities

As Canada Day approaches, owner of Persian grocery store is pleased to welcome customers from all cultural backgrounds
June 28, 2022
Lisa Queen

As Afshin Yazdani prepared for a rush of customers in advance of Canada Day on July 1, he spoke of the cultural mix of people who routinely come into his Newmarket grocery store.

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

Paeez, which opened on Nov. 1, is one of several culturally diverse grocery and food stores launched in Newmarket during the last couple of years, pointing to a growing population of many ethnic backgrounds.

“All cultures, they come in here and they 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 other cultures,” Yazdani said. “The food business is all about delicious stuff. If something is delicious, it doesn’t matter what culture you have. When the other cultures, Canadian and others, try our food and products, and they love it, I enjoy that.”

Similarly, Yazdani, who came to Canada from Iran more than 20 years ago and moved to Newmarket five years ago, enjoys sampling food and products from all cultures.

Yazdani laughs when recounting how everyone called him silly for opening his grocery store during the pandemic, but is thrilled it’s been embraced by the community.

Newmarket has welcomed a “significant number” of new culturally diverse grocery stores in the last couple of years, Mayor John Taylor said. “It’s reflective of the increasing diversity in our community. I’ve been to many of these new grocery stores and you see people from different demographic backgrounds shopping there because it’s an opportunity for people to explore food of different cultures and many people take that opportunity,” he said. “I’m a big believer that diversity is a strength of Newmarket, York Region and Canada. We’re growing and we’re diversifying more and more.”

In addition to Paeez, Newmarket’s list of diverse grocery stores 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.

Newmarket’s growing culturally diverse population is evidenced by the June 28 opening of the Centre for Immigrant and Community Services (CICS). This is their eighth location at 130 Mulock Dr. The settlement service agency has been serving GTA communities for more than 50 years.

“If you look at the list of the fastest-growing municipalities across Canada, you will notice two things. One, none of the Canadian big cities of Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal are near the top of the list,” CISC executive director, Alfred Lam, said. “We are seeing the most growth in the mid-sized cities and municipalities in the country. Two, there is a correlation between the growth of these cities and the increase in the diversity of the population, suggesting that the newcomer populations are driving most of that growth. Newmarket is a perfect example of both phenomena.”

The growth of culturally diverse grocery stores is a “great indicator” of the growth in the newcomer population, Lam said. “Diversity and inclusion are very much part of 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 families. We envision our Newmarket Centre will benefit the community by becoming a space and a platform for people from all different backgrounds to come together and put the concepts of inclusion and diversity into action.”

While information on diversity from the latest Canadian Census won’t be released until Oct. 26, the 2016 Census shows Newmarket has residents from countries around the world, including China, Iran, Philippines, Brazil, India, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Israel, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Moldova, Nigeria, the U.S., Iraq, Pakistan, Columbia, Vietnam, Syria, Mexico, Bangladesh, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Japan, Egypt and Afghanistan.