Big Erics Inc.: Providing Friendly, Value-added Service and Quality Products

The roots of Big Erics Inc. (BEI) stretch back to the 1950s when Sanitary Products Inc. was established in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. At the outset BEI provided primarily sanitation and janitorial products and services but quickly added food service equipment to capitalize on the common customer base. BEI has come so far as to win the Supplier of the Year award in the Atlantic Canadian food service industry in 2012.
BEI is now an amalgamation of Sanitary Products, Big Erics Restaurant Supplies Limited and Janitor’s Market Inc. BEI was selected because of the tremendous reputation that Eric Joy, a fun-loving, portly man, had established in the food service industry both before and after he incorporated Big Erics Restaurant Supplies Limited in 1978. BEI has now become Atlantic Canada’s largest distributor of janitorial equipment and supplies, restaurant equipment and supplies, and automotive detailing products and industrial chemicals. Joy would have been so proud to know that his name will continue on as the identity of a leader in the industry that he loved.
While BEI is headquartered in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, the company has showrooms and distribution centers in Halifax and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, as well as in Moncton, New Brunswick. BEI aims to be recognized not only for its friendly customer service, but also for its efficiency and ability to add value where competitors can’t. This says a lot considering the company’s client base includes organizations in commercial food service, commercial cleaning, hospitality, fishing, breweries, extended care facilities, automotive dealerships, body shops and automotive detailing shops across Atlantic Canada.
“What makes BEI special are the value-added services that our knowledgeable and friendly staff provide our customers,” admits Ed Stratton, president and CEO of BEI. “We can take a customer through the entire process of creating a commercial kitchen, all the way to the commissioning, for example, or we cam provide all the equipment and supplies to service their sanitation and janitorial needs, be it the washroom, meat room or dumpster.”
On occasion BEI will also supply clients internationally. BEI once worked through a Houston-based company to supply a client in South Korea. The company normally guarantees same-day or next-day delivery service, but even the enthusiastic BEI team had to make an exception for this particular client.
Everything and the Kitchen Sink
BEI can supply restaurateurs with just about any product imaginable and if it’s not already in BEI’s inventory, the company will consult with its network of suppliers to find a suitable and cost-effective source. The company also has in-house design capabilities for providing drawings and layout for commercial kitchens, which BEI can then be counted on to supply and install.
Even after each sale and installation the BEI team is on hand to provide additional professional services. The company has four service technicians on staff to provide any repairs or service needs to the equipment it sells.
BEI also offers sanitation advisory services to customers across all sectors of the commercial market, where a BEI professional will conduct an on-site survey of the customer’s facility, noting opportunities for new and innovative products and systems while always looking for steps to reduce costs. BEI will also meet the customer and any other additional representatives to discuss specific concerns, followed by a written report of BEI’s findings and a list of feasible solutions and product recommendations.
BEI’s knowledgeable staff also offers food safety training courses and food service consultations. BEI is associated with TrainCan Basics Food Handlers Training Course, a National Certification, to provide five-year food safety basics certification for a customer’s staff. BEI will also step in with more comprehensive services to address the kitchen’s needs with the help of architects and equipment manufacturer representatives to recommend products and services that meet a kitchen’s electrical and mechanical specifications as well as help reduce costly downtime and the need for expensive upgrades.
The company is currently rolling off of a major expansion project that began in 2009, just as many companies in North America were scaling back. “We identified a need by both regional and national food service and property management companies for a single-source supplier that was capable of doing more than just delivering boxes,” adds Stratton. “So we took our Newfoundland Sanitary Products model and expanded throughout Atlantic Canada with two acquisitions in Nova Scotia and opening a branch in New Brunswick, the latest of which was in Dartmouth in June 2011.”
Trending Upward
The culmination of BEI’s recent expansion was the acquisition of Janitor’s Market Inc. (JMI), a company based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, specializing in the supply of sanitation, janitorial and automotive appearance products.
BEI now produces a variety of products under its brand name and maintains a staff of 65 professionals, a 40,000-square foot showroom and warehouse space carrying 3 million units in inventory to reach customers across Atlantic Canada.
Now that BEI has expanded its presence across Atlantic Canada the company will begin to refine a branded image. “The recent acquisitions have provided us with the opportunity to standardize operations across locations, which includes rebranding,” says Stratton. BEI launched the new website in early 2012 and will continue to refine the layout over the course of the next year, and this rebranding initiativovid just one of many steps in BEI pursuing further growth.
“We plan on acquiring an additional 25,000-square foot building in Nova Scotia to consolidate our existing operations in Halifax and Dartmouth and developing more of a presence in Prince Edward Island,” continues Stratton.
It Looks Good for Our People
Stratton is emphatic that BEI has prospered primarily because of the people who have worked for Sanitary Products, Big Erics Restaurant Supplies and Janitor’s Market over the years. The company has thrived due to the trust and respect these BEI employees have earned among the company's customers. “We have a fantastic team of dedicated, knowledgeable, service-oriented and fun-loving people who really enjoy what they do,” says Stratton. “Having fun and carrying on is very much part of our culture and gets us through the most challenging of situations.”
BEI is already positioned to meet the needs of customers across Atlantic Canada. The company will continue to play a critical part in supporting the region’s future economic development by maintaining the friendly attitude and highest standard of customer service that laid the foundation for Big Erics Inc.’s diversification.