Sarnia Produce likes lay of the land in Point Edward

Owners Mark, left, and Dean Troiani at the construction site of the new Sarnia Produce store. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

A new $4-million building for Sarnia Produce is preparing the family-owned business for a third generation, says co-owner Dean Troiani.

He and brother Mark are the second generation to run the fruit and vegetable operation, and Dean says their children are showing interest in taking over one day.

Albert and Yolanda Troiani started Sarnia Produce 45 years ago and initially intended to locate in Sarnia. But those plans fell through at the last moment and the only warehouse space the couple could find on short notice was in Point Edward.

By that time, the name was incorporated and the Troianis didn’t see the sense in spending money to change it, Dean Troiani said.

“We get asked all the time why it’s called Sarnia Produce when it’s in Point Edward.”

Sarnia Produce began on Kendall Street and moved to its current location on Lite Street in the mid-1980s.

For many years, wholesale contracts with institutions, schools and restaurants outstripped sales in the store’s small retail area by a ratio of about 80:20, said Troiani. But in recent years, the retail customer base has grown and planning began for a new and larger store.

When an adjacent car wash went up for sale, the brothers purchased it and hired Forest-based Wellington Builders to construct an 11,000-square-foot single storey retail building. It will offer a wide range of produce, dairy and baked goods with a section called Fresh from Lambton.

“I want this to be everyone’s market,” said Troiani. “I’m going to work with other businesses in the area, not compete with them, so there’s a real community feel about it.”

For instance, the new Sarnia Produce story will carry baked goods from Cassie’s Cottage down the road, he said.

Troiani had planned all along to offer online retail shopping when the new building opened but it made sense to establish online shopping a year early to accommodate pandemic protocols.

“Sales just exploded and continue to be very strong for retail,” he said.

Retail now makes up about half the business.

Last year, staffing was increased to 18 and a night shift added to meet demand. Troiani anticipates hiring another 30 to 50 employees when the new store opens seven days a week late this spring.

“We love this community and our customers say they are excited too.” The new store will feature a “surprise” he’s not ready to unveil just yet.

“But I will say that it will be an additional service for our customers and it will be very European.”

When the new building is complete, all retail will move into it and wholesale will continue out of the existing one.

Sarnia Produce at 709 Lite St. offers an online store (https://www.sarniaproduce.ca), curbside pickup, delivery and in-person shopping.

Got a great idea for a business story? Send it to cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca.