Opinion

Pusateri’s Frank Luchetta on Homegrown Leadership and the Benefits of a Family Owned Business

Written by Frank Luchetta

Frank Luchetta, President & CEO of Pusateri’s Fine Foods has been at the forefront of building this family-owned and operated business’ exceptional reputation as one of the best fine food shops today.

Since we opened Pusateri’s Fine Foods as a small fruit market on St. Clair in Toronto in 1963, one vision remains strong: provide the best quality available while also providing the best experience. As a family business that Cosimo Pusateri (and later his wife Ida Pusateri – my sister) grew up with, we all came to understand every nuance of the operation. We got our hands dirty and were involved from the bottom up. We personally shopped the market, put out the product, served our guests, and cooked the food. This type of business model came naturally to us because of the teachings passed down from our ancestors; it gave us a deeper understanding of what works and how we like things done. Ultimately as a family, we are all accountable to each other and have the drive see each other and therefore the business succeed. 

Our family values have also translated to the business. You’ll see that by just walking into a Pusateri’s store. Our strong Italian heritage is not only in the products we offer (many of which are imports from Italy and Europe) but also in our corporate culture. “Food is at the center of a life well lived,” as Cosimo used to say. Food is what gathers people together–it nourishes us. This is where our Italian hospitality comes in, even as we’ve grown to five locations across the GTA. I think there are many people who identify with that – food and hospitality bringing people together –which has naturally played a part in the brand’s growth.

 

Our mission is to always give customers the best quality food experience we can provide. Staying true to a mission such as this I believe is what sets a brand like ours apart. To root your company’s purpose in something you’ve always been taught by family brings a type of character and authenticity that you just can’t replicate.

As we continued to grow our stores, it was important to me that the business continued to thrive and innovate. In 2016, I saw an opening in the Canadian market for a luxury food hall which are very popular in Europe. When I heard Saks Fifth Avenue was coming to Canada, this was a great partnership opportunity since they are also known for luxury offerings and guests experiences. After I pitched them the idea, the food hall was born. Today, we continue to fill our stores with the best new items on the market to give our guests amazing new food experiences.

Another example of our heritage is our meat legacy and produce buying which hasn’t changed since day one. In the early days of the business, Salvatore Pusateri would shop the fruit market and Cosimo Pusateri would dry-age the beef – these are all things we still do today. The truth is that this takes more time and costs more money, but to us, it’s the right way and something we’ll never give up. We dry-age all our beef because it drastically changes the quality and experience. We pick our own produce six days a week because it’s the only way we can pick the best for our guests.

I like to believe with the strides Pusateri’s has made over the past two decades, the business now also targets the next generation of food lovers (or “foodies”) who appreciate a good meal. That also means connecting with a younger consumer who desires something new, experiential, and convenient. For example, we continue to bring in new vendors to our food halls with unique/interesting offerings that will elevate food experiences for our guests. This demonstrates how a brand can evolve while staying true to its roots.

In the end, we are a family business and will always be more than a grocery store. My sister Ida and I work closely together to lead the business with great involvement from her children. All three grew up stocking the shelves and serving guests as well – now they play much bigger operational roles. We are involved in every single decision from the marble tile pattern on the floors to new store openings. In the past, we have had opportunities to sell, but we ultimately live for the control. We want to see our family’s vision through and that will always keep us going.