Class of 1999
Theodore P. Loblaw has been described as “a merchant prince, a prominent and revered citizen, and a philanthropist”. He was the founder of Loblaw Groceterias Ltd., the precursor to the Loblaws grocery chain.
Born on a farm in southern Ontario in 1872, Theodore was orphaned at the age of 15 and raised by his grandfather. By age 17, he had moved to Toronto, where he worked for three dollars per week as a grocery clerk, where he discovered his love of the grocery business, and met his future partner, J. Milton Cork.
By 1910, Loblaw had acquired enough money and experience to open his own grocery business, and by the end of the decade had established a chain of 19 stores in Toronto and Southern Ontario. However, he still sought out greater challenges.
In 1919 Loblaw sold off his original chain, and in that same year established Loblaw Grocetrias Ltd., in partnership with Cork. With this venture, Loblaw pioneered the concept of self-serve grocery merchandising in Canada.
Then in 1924 he incorporated an American company in New York State under the name of Loblaw Groceterias Inc., which he expanded into the Chicago market four years later.
At the time of his death in 1933, Loblaw headed companies operating 107 supermarkets in Ontario, and 90 in the United States.
Loblaw was also instrumental in the establishment of the Toronto Western Hospital, as well as the Stevenson Memorial Hospital in Alliston, Ontario (as a tribute to the grandparents who raised him).
In his later years, Loblaw devoted substantial amounts of his time and financial resources to charity. In particular, he never forgot his own experience as an underprivileged youngster, and left a large portion of his estate to the Kiwanis Club of Toronto to help in its efforts to provide young people with a better start to life.