In 1949, when Seymour Weinstein was "conscripted" into the family wholesale business at the age of 15, Canadian Fruit and Produce Co. specialized in apples.

The company was the first to occupy a house back in 1954 when the Ontario Food Terminal opened in Toronto.

Weinstein, winner of the Ontario Produce Marketing Association's 2016 lifetime achievement award, recalls taking orders from A&P at 4 a.m. in mid-winter.

"By the time we'd packed 1,000 6-quart baskets of apples it was 10 o'clock," he said. "Then we'd stack them in our tarp truck and I drove them to A&P.

"If they were mcintosh, which bruises when you pack it, the receiver wouldn't take them," he said.

Weinstein would drive the rejected load back to the Ontario Food Terminal and unpack the fruit so it wouldn't freeze, arriving home at midnight.

After several more rejections he called his two brothers together and announced: "That's the last apple I will pack in my lifetime. "

"In 1969 we went heavy into watermelon," said Weinstein, 82. "Then we got real big."

He was the first wholesaler to bring bins to the marketplace, which reduced the handling of melons on the farm and gave stores a satellite display.

"I asked the chains if they'd rather spend five hours taking them off my truck, or have a bin that takes 20 minutes to unload," he said.

Weinstein also went to court to have licensed U.S. tractor trailers allowed on Ontario roads Saturday and Sunday, days critical for perishable loads.

He was the first to bring "piggy-back" trailers on flatbed rail cars into the market, an efficient and cost-effective way to move product.

"I loved what I did," Weinstein said, from his winter retreat in Florida with Risa, his wife of 55 years.

"I was like a racehorse who couldn't wait to get up in the morning and go to work. You do well when it's something you love."

Though proud of his sons Randy and Steven and son-in-law Rob Piccone, who still carry a full range of melons at Canadian Fruit, Weinstein said he misses the days when business was personal, when houses at the terminal specialized in different items and vendors went out for a drink Friday night with customers.

"Now my kids carry 30 items!" he said.

"I go down to our warehouse or to the market three to four times a week but it's no fun anymore. Everyone's on the phone or on the e-mail instead of talking to each other. All I see down there is pressure and everybody fighting for the same customer.

"In my day when one other house had watermelon, I knocked them off!"

 
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