Leonard Wholesale Fruit & Vegetable Inc.

Toronto’s reliable purveyor of quality produce
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Dana MerkWynne

Leonard Wholesale Fruit & Vegetable Inc. understands that reputations are earned, not given. For 25 years, the company has worked hard to associate the Leonard Wholesale name with the highest standards of quality and service in the wholesale fruit, vegetable and dairy business.

Leonard Wholesale handles a range of products, from conventional to organic produce and dairy, prepared vegetables to cut fruits, as well as exotic fruit and vegetables. The company puts its reputation on the line daily with each order it fills.

Leonard Wholesale`s proximity to the Ontario Food Terminal allows for rapid purchasing and delivery to a range of citywide customers, particularly in the hospitality industry. The company maintains contract agreements as the preferred produce supplier for a range of upscale area hotels chains such as Fairmont, Ritz Carlton, Hyatt, One King West Hotel, King Edward Hotel, Marriot, Novotel and The Old Mill Spa, as well as major retailers like Whole Foods and Rabba Foods.

Leonard Wholesale Fruit & Vegetable Inc.

Taking service personally

“For us, service comes first,” says Anthony Bondi, CEO of Leonard Wholesale. “We go above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis.”

Anthony has been in the produce business for more than 35 years. He says Leonard Wholesale’s customers appreciate the company’s personalized approach. “We’re small enough to offer personal service, yet large enough to serve the big league players,” he says. “If you call us with an emergency situation, rarely does ‘no’ exist in our vocabulary, you can bet that my partner or I will be on the road to deliver whatever you need.”

“We are very accessible to our customers and that’s what they love about us,” he adds. “All customers appreciate speaking to a live voice instead of a recording. They even have our personal cellphone numbers for any special requests after hours. We are like a security blanket for them and they can rest assure that we will deliver”

Leonard Wholesale has been working to build strong customer and supplier relationships since Anthony and his partner, Joseph Curcio, took over the business in 1990. “Leonard Wholesale has actually been around for more than 60 years; we took over the family-owned business 25 years ago,” explains Anthony. “We are still serving clients today such as The Fairmont Royal York Hotel and The King Edward Hotel that Joe’s father-in-law [the original Leonard] supplied over 60 years ago. That’s something that speaks for itself.”

The pair started with a single truck and things rapidly started to spread by way of word-of-mouth business. Initially, Anthony did the purchasing and Joe did the packing and they would load up the truck and hit the road before dawn.

“I enjoyed delivering to clients daily,” recounts Anthony. “Being on the road, I interacted with all my clients, met new chefs and purchasers, which opened many windows of opportunities. Things just kind of multiplied through our quality products and timely deliveries. We are honored to this day that word-of-mouth translated into words of praise.”

Despite not having a sales team, Leonard Wholesale is up to seven trucks and 22 employees. The company has continued to expand through this same customer-first, speedy-service ethos.

“We have also established relationships with the owners of many companies in the Ontario Food Terminal and this helps ensure we’re buying the best, freshest product possible at competitive prices,” explains Anthony.

Safe, specialty produce items

Today, Leonard Wholesale runs seven trucks, distributing box items, processed fresh-cut items, dairy products and custom orders out of its 10,000-square-foot refrigerated facility. “About 2,500 square feet of the space is dedicated to processing fresh vegetables; all very clean and sanitized environments,” says Anthony. “We frequently undergo third-party food safety audits and just recently scored 98.5 percent on the last one. We are also working toward our Safe Quality Food Institute (SQF2) certification.”

As a reputable, reliable purveyor of full line high-quality produce, Leonard Wholesale handles more than 300 various produce items ranging from asparagus to zucchini, apples to Ugli fruit. “If it exists and it’s in season, we will find it for you,” says Anthony.

“We also offer a full line of in-house processed cut vegetable items such as carrot sticks, celery sticks, coleslaw, chopped romaine, diced and julienne peppers peeled onions and potatoes, all cut fresh, daily,” adds Anthony. “Whatever specifications the client requires, we will customize their orders. We are very flexible and accommodating.”

In an effort to increase customer convenience, Leonard Wholesale introduced more than 150 various dairy items to the mix last year. “We now offer a full line of milk, yogurts and cheeses as a secondary source for our customers,” says Anthony. “We found diversifying into dairy complements our business because the hospitality industry does not get the service level that we can provide. We offer 7 days a week delivery, something that is nonexistence in the dairy business.”

With plans to bring in more and more specialty produce and non-produce items and the prospect of a major contract coming on board, Leonard Wholesale has its sights set on a busy year ahead.

“Our biggest challenge is finding labor as dedicated and quality driven as we currently have,” says Anthony. “We are blessed to have many employees that have 30 years or more of industry related experience in packing, shipping and receiving – they all know the business well and work well as a team.”

“But moving forward, we need to bring in a younger generation with a strong work ethic who understands quality and customer service,” adds Anthony.

Meeting changing demands

Anthony says the produce business is constantly changing and keeping pace with varying demand, trends and new items presents daily challenges. “We are proud to serve the most discerning hotels, institutional and restaurant clients in the city,” he says. “These clients demands have changed as the city of Toronto has become world recognized.”

“All chefs are quality oriented and only want the best for their customers,” continues Anthony “The wholesale produce business today, needs to provide selection and retail-quality produce at wholesale prices. The only difference between wholesale and retail is the delivery service and credit terms given.”

In addition, food processing and fresh-cut grab-and-go items are a growing sector of the food business. “In response, we have strongly invested in more in-house processing,” says Anthony. “Our fresh quality cut vegetables have given us an edge over our competitors in the food service industry. Our commitment to quality processed items has rewarded us with several renewed contracts with various food-buying groups.”

With major deals coming down the line and more renewed contracts, Leonard Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Inc. is poised to continue to fill the needs of hospitality and retail clients in Toronto for the long haul.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Central Ontario Dairy Distributing
CIBC Wood Gundy
F.G. Lister & Co. Ltd
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