Food for Thought

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    There’s nothing like a week in the big city to help establish a balanced frame of reference. Kimmy and I decided it was time to go to the “big smoke” (Toronto) to satisfy the mandatory annual “visit the family” exercise.

    Hell, you never know one of those distant relatives might have a few million stuffed in a mattress somewhere with a note that says: When I die all this money goes to Kimmy. I don’t expect a similar note in a mattress since most of my family are just hoping they have enough cash to last until their final days.

    So here we are in the big city, cranes and condos as far as the eye can see. It’s hard to believe that Saint John‘s Prince William Street in the late 1880’s the financial centre of Canada while a fledgling Toronto was referred to as Hog town,…….what the hell happened?

    Ok, on with my “food for thought” story. I started my working life as a teenager in Hamilton a few decades ago. I was employed at one of the largest most modern super market in Hamilton called POLLOCKS. My job was to keep the produce department well stocked with fruits and vegetables, however I left after several months for greener pastures.

    Nostalgia has a way pulling you back to earlier times and places so  I thought I would drop by to see how POLLOCKS had weathered the decades. …..The massive building was still there but the once large POLLOCKS sign had been reduced to a small sign that hung over a single doorway. What had happened?

    I entered the store with a sign that said ” CHEQUES CASHED” and pasted a shopping cart filled with reduced price items to find a middle aged lady standing behind a small store counter. I introduced myself and I said; “I had my very first full time job in this store many years ago”. She said; “The owner Mr. Pollock is here” as she pointed to an elder rather frail looking gentleman sitting in a small office eating Chinese food out of a Styrofoam cup.

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    Several decades ago I had been hired by the father of the gentleman eating Chinese food in what now could be best described as a low end convenience store. Sometime during the late fifties the father had turned a large thriving supermarket business over to his son who lacked the leadership and vision to build on what had been entrusted to him.

    During the same period an Italian immigrant named John Fortino opened his first tiny store opened in the heart of Hamilton. His mission: A commitment to giving its customers fresh, quality foods, competitive prices and unsurpassed customer service. It is known today, several decades later as the “Supermarket with a Heart” . Fortino’s continues to lead and introduce innovative products and services aimed at enhancing the shopping experience. Kimmy said it was like walking into the first floor of Harrod’s in London England, it was that impressive.

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    How is that one man handed a thriving business squandered the gift while another man in a strange country, with few financial resources, in the same city, in the same market, facing the same opportunities and obstacles was able to build a thriving business?

    Did it come down to vision and leadership? Can the same be said for cities?

    Food for thought, think about it.

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