For John Pitsikoulis, newly arrived from Greece in 1961, the search for fortune began in Montreal, where other relatives had already settled.
No stranger to hard work, Pitsikoulis soon found a job at a market, a position that would lay the foundation for an entire career.
“The owner took a strong liking to him because of his work ethic and diligence,” said son George Pitsikoulis.
“He would rotate product without being told, where the other guys — whenever the boss wasn’t looking — would just stack the new bags of onions atop the old bags of onions.”
Whether by instinct or empathy for the product, maintaining top quality produce would become the earmark of every Pitsikoulis endeavor.
In short order, Pitsikoulis opened his first retail store in downtown Montreal and worked his way up to where he is today.
By the early 1980s, sons Michael and George were active in the business and a third son, Nick, born in 1971, was in training. It was time, Pitsikoulis reasoned, to launch yet another in a long line of ventures, Canadawide Fruit Wholesalers Inc.
“Today, we carry a product line that’s more than 700 items, and within different items we have multiple levels of qualities,” George said.
Canadawide’s customers are predominantly in Quebec, but the company also services customers from Toronto east to Newfoundland.
All three brothers are now active in the management of Canadawide, which is once again family-owned. The last of the partners was bought out in 2002, George said.
Soon to be 75, John Pitsikoulis continues to work and continues to oversee all aspects of the Canadawide operation, George said.
“He’s there at two o’clock every morning,” he said. “I usually have to push him out by one o’clock in the afternoon.”
The focus is variety as Pitsikoulis makes his daily tour of the warehouse.
In his role as mentor to his sons, John’s message has been loud and clear.
“Your word is your bond, integrity is paramount, treat people like human beings,” George said.
“We understand the principle that we’re not only partners with our customers, but equally so with our suppliers and our employees.”
Having established a successful wholesale business and with three sons at the helm, retirement could be a consideration.
“I don’t think that word exists in his vocabulary,” George said. “This is not a job for him — it’s a passion.”