McGill student-favourite Super Sandwich shut its doors on June 23, citing increasing rent. The small dépanneur, which opened in 1988 and operated out of the basement of the Cartier Building, was popular among McGill students for its affordable sandwiches. Consequently, Super Sandwich reached out to SSMU, considering the possibility of reopening on campus in the University Centre. However, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) and McGill administration are still discussing the logistics of implementing long-term leases with businesses in the University Centre.
Super Sandwich owner Mathis Lo explained the circumstances of the shop’s closure in an interview with The Tribune. According to Lo, the shop’s rent would have increased to double what they were previously paying.
Like for many other small and family-owned businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenging period for Super Sandwich. The business was also forced to increase the prices of their products earlier in 2023 because of food inflation, which reached its highest levels in decades. When their landlord informed them of the increased rent, Lo stated that he and his family did not want to feel pressured to put in even more hours at the store as a means to pay the rent.
“We didn’t want to be tied down to the store. Now we’re in a position where we can actually decide what we want to do, [whether] we want to leave or not,” Lo said.
Additionally, Lo explained that he did not see raising prices further as an option.
“For us, it wasn’t worthwhile staying because we didn’t want to increase our prices […] we wanted to keep our prices affordable for the students, and, for us, it didn’t make sense to overcharge,” Lo said.
Quang-Hai Francis Dinh, U3 Science, sees Super Sandwich’s closure—which he described as “devastating”—as both a sign of the times and a warning.
“Both rising rent and food insecurity are growing problems in Montreal. The hardships of small businesses [are] representative of bigger issues to come,” Dinh said. “The closure takes away one of the most popular food spots near campus. Other sandwich shops exist but the main attraction was the cheap price.”
Many students have felt the burden of high food costs at McGill leading to demands from Let’s Eat McGill last Spring for better quality and cheaper food options. This year, Student Housing and Hospitality Services switched the dining halls from à-la-carte to a buffet-style, all-you-care-to-eat plan. In addition, students have led initiatives such as the Good Food Boxes offered by the Student Nutrition Accessibility Club, and the newly opened independent grocery market Les Fermes du Marché in the University Centre.
Currently, SSMU is considering housing Super Sandwich in the University Centre. SSMU’s Vice-President of Operations and Sustainability, Hassanatou Koulibaly, wrote in an email to The Tribune that SSMU has ongoing conversations with the Office of Deputy Provost of Student Life and Learning to be able to offer long-term leases to businesses in the University Centre in the future.
“As we currently are discussing the terms of our agreement with McGill, we cannot give the long-term leases needed for Super Sandwich and other businesses to move into the University Centre,” Koulibaly wrote. “Once we secure an agreement with McGill, we will be able to accommodate many initiatives such as Super Sandwich in the University Centre.”
Meanwhile, Lo is looking forward to reopening the store in the University Centre if the proposed lease offers long-term stability and the rent is affordable. He believes that if SSMU is willing to offer an affordable rent price, then Super Sandwich will be able to offer low prices for their products, benefiting Lo and McGill students.