The ethnic diversity of Southern Ontario has led to the emergence of A1 Cash and Carry as a leader in the restaurant and convenience store wholesale supplies industry. The last 15 years has seen the always diverse metropolitan Toronto population grow exponentially. The South Asian presence in the Golden Triangle now approaches 750,000. This is larger than the population of Winnipeg, Hamilton, Quebec City, London (ON) or Kitchener-Waterloo.
Along with this burgeoning South Asian population came the need to provide the many specific products that comprise their varied and unique cuisines. Products that were at the time, totally foreign to many of the leading food industry wholesalers of the day like Flannigan’s and Gordon Food Service.
An opportunity was presented and A1 jumped in whole hog. Not only did they provide an exhaustive inventory that catered to the ethnic markets, they also included an impressive list of brand name packaging products, cleaning products, smallwares, all kinds of food products and commercial kitchen equipment – that is today’s A1 Cash & Carry.
They also redefined what a Cash & Carry is. The old Cash & Carry would stock an emporium-style range of products – an impressive array that wasn’t necessarily specific to any particular industry. The customer was often on his own in finding all the things he needed. After all, wholesale usually meant little service in order to maintain low prices.
The A1 emphasis has always been on service, providing the customer with a streamlined and enhanced shopping experience. One could say that the size alone of A1 Cash & Carry necessitated a minimum level of service. Or else customers would be wandering the many aisles for hours trying to track down their needs. But A1 has always exceeded expectations as far as service is concerned.
It is not by coincidence that for the last 3 years running, A1 Cash & Carry has made Macleans Magazine’s Fastest-Growing Companies in Canada Top 500 list. They are innovative, service-oriented and quick to adapt. The current pandemic illustrates this. General Manager, Fahmad Parviaz remembers March 12, 2020 vividly. That was the day restaurants were basically closed down. Safety guidelines outlined the mandated use of masks and other PPE products. A1 was fortunate to have those supplies on hand.
“There are plenty of PPE sources across the GTA that are overpriced. A1 is not trying to make a profit on PPE. We want to get the economy going again. We are following the safety protocols by providing an abundance of gloves and masks for fair prices, social distancing, and not holding any meetings in the boardroom, as well as many other measures”. – Fahmad Parvaiz, General Manager, A1
On that fateful day last March, A1 also recognized the need for a big eCommerce presence – enabling the customer to shop online in a contact-less, safe environment. As such they have devoted a lot of resources to providing a seamless online shopping experience with over 8000 items available to any business in Canada. “A restaurant owner in Saskatoon can now order a product from us”. says Fahmad.
A1 has 3 locations in Southern Ontario. A1’s huge Mississauga location serves a thousand clients a day. This location, like their Etobicoke location (an A1 Express location) serves businesses only. Restaurant and other owners can register as members on the A1website or in person at the locations to simplify the ordering process. Membership is free, and it is only required for in-store shopping. The London A1 Express is open to the public.
“It can be very eye-opening for those who have never been to a cash and carry. Without the expense of large office space, excessive advertising, and by using strategic bulk buying and many other cost cutting measures, A1 can afford “to keep our margins super slim. We buy things in container loads, so we can sell them at low prices. At A1, we are always looking to find things that will save customers money”, Fahmad is proud to point out.