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Pusateri’s Fine Foods

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Pusateri’s locations have become landmarks in Toronto with their dedication to high-end foods and quality service.

During the holidays or any time of the year, many people really cherish family meals. Enjoying quality food with the people you love is a time-honored tradition, and as a family owned and operated business, Pusateri’s Fine Foods understands this well. In fact, the Pusateri family takes a lot of pride in having served Toronto’s families with quality food since 1962.

“We are well known as the original fine-food grocery store in Toronto,” says Paolo Pusateri, manager of process improvement. “We were the first to bring so many products to Toronto, and we offer so many products and a great shopping experience under one roof. We love being a family business and showing our Italian heritage.”

Pusateri’s was established in Toronto’s Little Italy neighborhood in 1963 when Salvatore Pusateri, an immigrant from Sicily, opened a small fruit market with his wife, Rosaria. From the start, the Pusateris’ passion for food and family translated into finding the highest-quality produce and serving everyone with a smile. His son, Cosimo, started contributing to the family business when he was about 11 years old with jobs around the market and by building partnerships with members of the business community who didn’t speak Italian.

In 1986, Cosimo and his wife, Ida, took over the family store and moved it to its current location in Toronto at Avenue Rd. and Lawrence Ave. W. Specializing in gourmet and specialty products from local and international producers, Pusateri’s now has five locations in Toronto. Ida continues to run the business today with her brother, Frank Luchetta, and her children: Sam, Rosanna and Paolo. With its enduring love of fine food, the Pusateri family continues to deliver quality to the families of Toronto through its stores, catering services, custom orders and additional services.

“My father took this business from a supermarket to a specialty store,” Paolo Pusateri explains. “He was inspired by boutiques and markets in Europe, and wanted to create a visually exciting space that is dedicated to food and great service.”

He notes these values are on display at every store, including the ones located in Saks Fifth Avenue locations, which are co-branded retail experiences. “They are a Pusateri’s food hall,” he says. “One is in downtown Toronto in a massive mall connected to the subway system and the underground network of corridors that links all of the buildings together in the downtown area. This is a big store and we focus on delivering food experiences. There are lunch and dinner options, as well as all the traditional categories you would expect at the grocery store. Additionally, there is a sit-down restaurant there. That location sees more than 25,000 guests every week – it is very busy.”

Pride in Quality

Quality is a hallmark of Pusateri’s, and it remains something the family holds dear. The company has a team of buyers and category managers who focus on developing a large selection of goods at its stores, always remaining engaged with food markets and producers in its supply chain to ensure everything meets Pusateri’s standards. The stores have become landmarks in Toronto for its loyal base of customers, Pusateri says, so it is important for staff to uphold benchmarks established by the family.

“People look to us because of our reputation for great products, so we have to deliver, and we take pride in doing that,” he says. “We travel to international trade shows in the United States and in Europe, and we continually visit Italy a couple times a year. We find new products and work with distributors to offer them at our stores, but we also can import products ourselves through our own program if distribution channels do not exist for certain producers.”

Pusateri’s quality selection of goods allows it to cater large and small events with plated, sit-down dinners or serve-yourself platters of entrees and hors d’oeuvers. All of this is done with the overall company’s brand of customer service.

“This isn’t easy, but we are dedicated to constantly delivering service that customers appreciate,” Pusateri says. “It is a constant focus for us, at all levels of the organization. It’s not just my family out there talking with every customer, everyone working here has is accountable to deliver on our service mission. We all have a responsibility to operate within the parameters of the business while going above and beyond to deliver for guests. We enjoy seeing the creativity people have in serving our guests.”

‘Near and Dear’

As part of its dedication to quality, Pusateri’s is putting a large focus on enhancing its technology. The goal is to make its team more efficient so staff can be on the retail floor more, instead of busy with admin work. This includes more mobile tools and a new ordering system that allows its stores to submit and process orders electronically. Pusateri explains the new system provides extra oversight on purchasing, ensuring accurate quantities, double checking product availability and meeting demand while avoiding waste.

The company would like to grow with additional locations, and Pusateri notes the business is always evaluating new opportunities, but it wants to ensure any growth is sustainable. The company wants to maintain a focus on its people, customer service and high-quality products, and will not sacrifice any of that proposition for growth.

“We are definitely looking at more properties, but it’s not something we rush into,” he says. “We are proud of our reputation and want to maintain that. Our reputation involves what we do in the market, our service and the experiences we offer. So many households and families hold Pusateri’s very near and dear to their hearts, because people all over the city have grown up with us. They are as much a part of our lives as we are of theirs.”

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