This spring, independent grocery chain Vince’s Market will open its fourth location, in Tottenham, Ont. The small town fits the company’s focus on underserved but growing Greater Toronto Area communities. The Vince brothers opened the original Vince’s Market in Toronto in 1929, later moving to Sharon, Ont., where they ran an open-air fruit market. Carmen Trimarchi purchased the business in 1986, later taking on his son Giancarlo and longtime employee Brian Johns as partners. The growing company—it also has stores in Newmarket and Uxbridge, Ont.—prides itself on being family-run; even Johns, who started working in the deli department as a teenager, is married to a Trimarchi cousin.
Five years ago, as Vince’s grew into a multi-store operation, the three partners started to rethink their strategic plan. “We knew we wanted to expand into new markets and increase our revenue and profitability,” says Giancarlo Trimarchi. “We got down to the nuts and bolts of what we’re good at and what we can bring to the marketplace.” That offering starts with fresh produce, which has been a core part of the company’s competitive edge from the beginning. Produce sales account for approximately 35% of Vince’s business—more than double that of most grocers, according to Trimarchi. Vince’s Market stores are smaller than other chains, typically around 15,000 square feet. “We’re not going to be Loblaws or a Sobeys,” says Trimarchi. “We want to offer quality, fresh products, and we want to give our customers a great shopping experience that will keep them coming back for more.” In accordance with the boutique vision, the company’s supply chain focuses on smaller vendors.
Vince’s Market has outgrown its earlier DIY strategy, in which the three partners took on all the duties and decision-making themselves. Each now oversees a separate silo of responsibility. “We’ve found that we’ve been able to spread our wings and do what’s best, while still constantly checking in with each other,” says Giancarlo, who, in addition to being CFO and director of marketing, also handles health and safety, and risk management. Carmen Trimarchi focuses on fresh produce, while Johns is the director of operations, handling day-to-day management of the stores.
To accommodate expansion plans and facilitate growth, the partners have also worked to devolve some of the power in the organization. “We really rely on our supervisor team,” says Trimarchi. “We try to empower them to make decisions.” Staff are supported with ongoing training, including a monthly supervisor seminar series focused on strategic goals, and programs for all employees on topics like email skills and internal report preparation.
Even as Vince’s Markets expands—the company now employs 300 people, with an additional 100 hires planned over the next year—some things remain constant. “We have a small-business mentality, where we’ve always taken care of people,” says Trimarchi. “We treat each other with respect, but we’re also very honest, and there’s a lot of communication.” After a pause, he adds: “And it’s really nice to go to work with your dad every day.”