George Pitsikoulis was born into the produce business — almost literally.
As Pitsikoulis accepted his honor as the 2019 Quebec Pillar of the Industry at the August 8-10 Quebec Produce Marketing Association Convention in Quebec City, he told the crowd that his parents, John and Angeliki Pitsikoulis, opened a Montreal greengrocery in 1961.
Guy Fruits Store doubled as daycare for George and his two brothers, Mike and Nick, who were cradled by straw-filled crates as babies and when a little older, sent to farms and wholesalers to pick up stock.
Today, those three brothers run the family business, which evolved into Canadawide, a produce wholesale distributor with 35,000 square feet of space for 7,500 pallets, 15 storage coolers and more than 300 employees.
Old fuzzy photographs of Pitsikoulis as a baby, child and young adult flashed on the video screens at the Saturday evening banquet, attended by more than 450 people.
As Pitsikoulis was graduating from Concordia University with a bachelor’s degree in economics, his father created the company name, Canadawide, in 1983, adding a wholesale division, and transitioning fully into wholesale by 1989, leaving retail behind. By 2013, the brothers moved into new facilities that use the latest technology to preserve fruits and vegetables and have a dedicated section for storing and packaging the products distributed by Canadawide.
“We see our growth as a result of our efforts to continually improve, not as a goal in itself,” said Pitsikoulis, Canadawide president since 2002.
He told the crowd that vegetables used to be considered a side dish or garnish, but today, “it’s the heart of the meal,” buoyed by the 2019 Canada Food Guide recommendation to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. “We’re supplying health to the public. We’re contributing to people’s wellbeing.”
Two of the most important issues in produce today are product safety and traceability, Pitsikoulis said.
“Maybe I’m dreaming, but we need to get to the point where recalls are a thing of the past,” he said.
Pitsikoulis is a man with integrity in all he does, said Dino Farrese, outgoing president of the QPMA board of directors and president of brokerage firm Bellemont Powell. Pitsikoulis was QPMA board president in 2011.
“Since then, you can count the number of events and meetings he’s missed on one hand, and have a few fingers left over,” Farrese said. “You can always count on George to help this industry grow.”
Pitsikoulis oversaw the “Fruits and Vegetables: They’re Hard to Resist” campaign during his presidency. He’s also been a member of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association board for several years.
Pitsikoulis maintains respectful, ethical business relationships with a warm, easygoing human dimension, Farrese said.
“He was dipped in some kind of magic potion at birth,” Farrese said.
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