Donny Sandher’s parents came to Canada from Britain on their honeymoon and never left. Expatriates of India, they, like a multitude of East Asian and Indian families, found a home in Canada and the nation is richer for it.
Donny operates a Chalo! FreshCo. store in Brampton, Ont., one of only two in the country. It’s his dream job.
“I’m very proud to be a Canadian and proud to be part of the Sobeys family. I have a great, passionate, energetic team around me,” says Donny, whose store serves Brampton’s diverse community and its large Asian Canadian population.
Not many grocery stores feature an entire wall of rice – all different types – but Chalo! does. India alone produces more than 70 rice varieties.
Meeting the very special culinary needs of communities for whom food is not only remarkably distinctive and delicious, but also at the heart of social and cultural life, is a challenge embraced by Donny, his Chalo! team and by Sobeys.
Sobeys Marketing Director (Discount) in Ontario, Linda Young-Blendick’s roots are in China. She is proud that Sobeys has developed a one-stop destination store that provides Asian Canadians with the tastes of their ethnicity and cultures.
She and Donny say the customers that flood the Brampton store are thrilled with the variety – more than 6,000 items in all – and the selection of fresh produce, about twice that found in an average grocery store. Some of that produce would be unfamiliar to many Canadians. South and Eastern Asian diets are high in vegetables and legumes and variety is important.
Customers feel at home in a store packed with bins brimming with produce that rivals the traditional markets of South Asia.
“This food is authentic and fresh, and that responds to customer needs and preferences,” Linda pointed out, adding that Sobeys has expanded its group that focuses exclusively on the expectations of their Asian customers, and on sourcing those products from far and near.
Sobeys has long offered food for diverse communities, but Chalo! FreshCo. takes the commitment to a new level. Chalo! offers a combination of the right products at great prices, something that is unique in the marketplace.
Connecting with its community has always been a hallmark of the Sobeys food business. The stores are not just located in a community, they are proudly part of each community.
Donny says his store’s integral place in the Asian community in Brampton was established almost immediately, as the community recognized and embraced Chalo! as its own.
Sobeys, from its beginning 110 years ago in small town Nova Scotia, saw its job as understanding customers, forming close relationships and evolving as customers’ food needs and tastes evolved.
Chalo! FreshCo. continues that tradition. Over 150 years, Canada has grown, changed and become home to people from all over the world. Meeting the variety of food preferences of the diverse population of the nation has become embedded in the character of the company.
The Chalo! FreshCo. stores are part of Sobeys’ broad and vital network of banners that are essential to the multi-faceted nature of a national chain.
For Donny Sandher, it is “fantastic” that his store has been embraced and welcomed as part of the community, and has become ever more involved in food drives, parades, and working to help build community pride, spirit and a sense of belonging.
“It’s a store for the people. We don’t just provide food, we celebrate our holidays, honour our traditions, and support and participate in our events.”
Donny grew up in the business. His parents owned and operated a convenience store in Brampton. He loves the action that is inherent in a thriving grocery store and the challenges that presents. He worked regularly in his parents’ store from age 6 to 14, then started working mainstream grocery at 15 years old and has never wanted to work in any other sector.
He loves his work and admits that he “loves to eat” but his greatest joy comes from working with a terrific staff to serve wonderful customers, all coming together to bring the store to life.