(April 18, 12:00 p.m.) Charles Oppenheimer started his business with the simple idea of supplying prospectors flocking to British Columbia during a gold rush.

One hundred and fifty years later, The Oppenheimer Group has 13 offices in three countries, sources produce from 26 countries, ships 44 million cases a year and has annual sales of more than $500 million.

The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company survived three devastating fires in the 1800s, the Great Depression and two World Wars.

“It comes down to passion and commitment and the culture of the company,” said John Anderson, president, chairman and chief executive officer. “It’s been an innovative company staying ahead of trends. The approach has been to attack problems head on, look forward and position yourself.”

Charles Oppenheimer opened the company’s first store in Victoria in 1858. Eleven years after arriving in the U.S. from Germany, brothers Godfrey, Isaac and David joined Charles in Canada in 1859, and they opened a second store in Fort Yale. A third branch opened in Barkerville in 1862.

Oppenheimer adopted the slogan “Expect the world from us” just four years ago, but the company has been building its global reputation since its early days. The company started importing Japanese oranges in 1891.

“There wasn’t anything like that in North America,” Anderson said of the easy-peeling citrus, which was renamed mandarin to avoid consumer backlash after World War II. “That was really a pioneer effort.”

By the time the company launched a dedicated perishables division in 1921, it also had developed an Australian produce program.

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150 years of innovation at Oppenheimer
The Oppenheimer mule train in 1867 had 157 pack mules, and it would take the train a month to make the 400-mile journey between two of the Oppenheimer stores in Yale and Barkerville, British Columbia.