Penguin Meat Supply Ltd.
When local newspapers found out Penguin Meat Supply sold the building its retail and wholesale distribution center had occupied for 53 years, it was a big story. Customers, politicians and local businesses flooded Penguin Meat Supply with phone calls, seeking reassurance that it would remain in the community, White Rock, British Columbia.
“They wanted our business to stay around the same area because it was drawing people to that area and that was helping all the other businesses around,” says Dave Andrews, Penguin Meat Supply’s general manager.
That’s part of the reason Penguin Meat Supply says it didn’t move far. In fact, its retail arm moved just across the street.
A new wholesale distribution center
Penguin Meat Supply is a wholesale and retail meat distribution business that sells beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, bison, veal, goat, sausage and more to small grocery chains and meat markets.
The Michaluk family opened the business in the ‘50s in Surrey, British Columbia. In 1964, the family moved it to White Rock, a Vancouver suburb with 20,000 people that’s surrounded by Surrey on three sides and Semiahmoo Bay on the other. Still family-owned, Penguin Meat Supply now provides 53 jobs to the White Rock community.
In 2016, the company moved its retail operation to a renovated building directly across the street from its original location. Its distribution warehouse and cold storage plant moved approximately 10 kilometers to Surrey, British Columbia.
“The building we were in was 53 years old,” Andrews says. “For the food industry, a building that old is hard to keep modern, so it was time to [move].”
From the first consultation with a builder, it took three years for Penguin Meat Supply to actually move into its new distribution center. Those three years were stressful, but Andrews says they were worth it. The new distribution center roughly quadrupled the company’s freezer and cooler storage space and added more loading bays for shipping and receiving.
In the old space, Penguin Meat Supply had “maxed out” the amount of product it could move through the building. The new location has made the company more efficient, but that trend really started a few years ago.
“Our business has grown substantially in the last couple of years, but our number of employees has not because we’ve become so much more efficient that we’re able to do a lot more volume with the same amount of employees,” Andrews says.
Retail’s commitment to community
The company’s retail division stayed closer to home. It moved into a refurbished building across the street from its original location and installed new coolers, freezers and product showcases.
Inside and out, Andrews says, “It’s nice and shiny and modern, so our customers love it; our staff there love it, and it has better parking than our old building.”
The decision to move across the street was made in part because longtime customers knew where to find Penguin Meat Supply. The company also felt invested in the community.
“We’ve been in the community for a long time,” Andrews says. “Our employees live in the community. Our young people who come to work for the company are going to the high school that’s four blocks away, and they come work after school, so we’ve always been very, very community based.”
Penguin Meat Supply has a long list of organizations it’s donated to. Those include local schools, sports teams, health and senior care facilities, and community organizations. It helps others host meat raffles, steak sales and custom product sales. At one point the company donated roughly 1,500 pounds of excess roasting chickens to a local food bank, just because it could.
“As long as, bottom line, we make enough money to keep going year to year to year and to expand when we have to, the owner’s philosophy is to share,” Andrews says.
Penguin Meat Supply’s owner, Vic Michaluk, extends that philosophy to the community, customers and employees alike. The company strives to be a partner to its customers and goes out of its way to provide replacement products whenever there’s a question of quality. At the end of the year, if the company has made money, Michaluk insists that a large portion is given back to the employees to reward them for their hard work.
Of Penguin Meat Supply’s 53 employees, five have been with the company 45 years or longer, two have between 20 and 45 years of experience with the company and 10 employees have been there between 10 and 20 years.
“That sort of goes to how the owners treat the people who work for them,” Andrews says. “It promotes people wanting to stay at the job.”