Campbellford Wholesale Ltd.: Celebrating Generations of Personalized Customer Service

It doesn’t matter where the shipment needs to go, Campbellford Wholesale Ltd. (CW) will make sure it arrives in tip-top shape. Ralph Locke inadvertently started the company in 1929 out of his billiard hall when he began placing orders for tobacco products and candies with a friend in Toronto. Once a week Ralph would make the drive out to Toronto and haul the goods back to Campbellford, Ontario, as a favor for family and friends. Before long Ralph was placing so many orders it became crystal clear there was a need for a more formal arrangement, and CW was born.

The Locke family has overseen the business since, growing CW from a one-man operation to a multimillion-dollar company with upward of 25 employees, 10 trucks and a 24,000-square foot warehouse. “I wouldn’t ask an employee to do anything I wouldn’t do myself and that’s the way it has always been,” asserts Dave Locke, owner of CW. “It’s the hard-work ethic my grandfather instilled in my father that he passed down to us.”

Dave and his brother, John Locke, currently oversee CW’s daily operations. Both proudly run the company with the same commitment to customer service their predecessors possessed.

“Customer service is what sets us apart,” says Dave. “We tend to look after our customers quite well, and over time you build trust and you continue doing business. That’s it.”

The CW mentality has allowed the company to supply a network of clients with tobacco products, confectionery goods and beverages as a wholesale distributor. CW’s client base represents a mix of foodservice enterprises, convenience stores, grocery stores and gas stations.

Changing Times

Confectionery and tobacco products were once the mainstays of CW’s product focus, but the company expanded its offerings over the years to include a variety of health and beauty products, beverages, paper goods, as well as both retail and foodservice frozen goods.

“We expand in the summertime to probably 400 accounts because of all the seasonal businesses,” estimates Dave. During the off-season, CW supplies a variety of local mom-and-pop shops, gas stations, convenience stores and foodservice enterprises. The lion’s share of CW clients is peppered across the stretch from Kingston, Ontario, to Port Hope, on the north shore of Lake Ontario, and as far north as Algonquin Park.

But geography is no limit to CW’s reach, as the company can field just about any kind of special request. CW has one customer in Milton-Queensland, Australia, who operates a Canadian-products-only online business to serve Canadians working in the area.

Going the Distance

CW also sells to the local Trenton Airport Base, which led the company to also fill orders to be shipped to the Canadian Forces Station in Alert, Nunavut, at the very top of the world. The Canadian Forces purchase from CW on a monthly basis, but such a long journey requires the team to be mindful of the order’s weight and size. “We build skids especially for the plane it will be shipped on and make sure the packaging is weight sensitive; it’s just one extra thing we do,” says Dave.

The company works with a network of wholesale suppliers to ensure competitive pricing and the quality of products CW clients insist on. New products are always being folded into the mix, as underperformers are nixed. Additionally, the team at CW will do its best to field any special request whether for an order of one case or 100 cases. The company even prints a weekly flyer for food service and convenience customers to take notice of hot new items and special discounts.

The company’s team of sales representatives touches base weekly or even daily with clients. The close communication not only ensures that client’s concerns are heard, but it also ensures that CW will be able to maintain its financial strength as it pursues new clients. “There’s no forgiveness with the banks these days and we have been very careful to make sure all of our accounts are cleaned up and in order before making another sale,” explains Dave.

Even as CW makes the push to go digital with an online ordering system the team will look for ways to maintain a personal touch. One of CW’s sales representatives has spent 42 years with the company and many more employees have been with the company for five, 10 or 15 years.

As the company’s centennial anniversary draws nearer, the third generation of Locke family members will work to sustain the family-oriented atmosphere that has kept clients and employees happy for decades. No matter which direction the company looks to for growth, the team’s willingness to go the extra mile will ensure Campbellford Wholesale Ltd. continues to provide personalized service.