Longo Brothers Fruit Markets
By Melanie Epp
Have you ever wondered why, in the heart of Ontario’s strawberry season, many grocery stores still sell strawberries from the U.S.?
And it’s not just the strawberries. Look around the produce section and you’ll often find plenty of items that, although in season in Ontario, hail from other parts of the world. With the local food movement at an all-time high, it’s hard to understand why. But not all grocery store chains operate in the same way.
Longo Brothers Fruit Markets Inc., better known as Longo’s, is a family owned and operated grocery chain in the Greater Toronto Area that prides itself on supporting Ontario’s farmers.
Tommy, Joe and Gus Longo opened their first store on Yonge Street in Toronto in 1956. Today, Longo’s has 26 locations and has built a reputation on its commitment to quality, service and value. In 2012, Longo’s received the Foodland Ontario Vision Award for their promotion of Ontario foods.
Longo’s has long had great relationships with local farmers, a trend that continues to date. “Whether the farm or grower is small or big, a big part of it is supporting the local community and the growers within that community,” says Mimmo Franzone, Director of Longo’s Produce and Floral Departments.
Local, for Longo’s, is about choosing Ontario products first, even if goods are available from the U.S. or elsewhere for cheaper. To offer their customers the best food experience, it’s also about buying product when it is at its peak. “Then we switch over to local and stick with it right until the end,” says Franzone.
In the winter months, when field-grown crops aren’t available, Longo’s relies on some Ontario-grown greenhouse products, like peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes. The rest is imported until it is in season here again.
Some of Longo’s vendors have been with them for generations. “There are farmers and growers that we’ve been working with that, like Longo’s, are on to the third and fourth generation,” says Franzone. Koornneef Produce in Grimsby, for instance, has been supplying Longo’s with greenhouse vegetables and fruit, including peaches and nectarines, for over 40 years.
But it isn’t just Ontario-grown fruit and vegetables that you’ll find on Longo’s shelves. Brian Langley, Director of Longo’s Meat and Seafood Department, says the same philosophy applies to meat.
“We did a great job in the produce department in communicating to our customers and consumers abroad about the impact of local foods, so we thought how far are we away from that in the fresh meat department?” said Langley adding that their meat counter is almost entirely Ontario already.”
“The way that we treat our vendors is the same way that we treat the communities that we serve,” says Langley. “Our goal is not just to provide our customers with a premium, local product. But it’s also to work with processors and farmers and to help create value chains so there’s sustenance in the economy. We’re developing those relationships… and we’re recognizing that it’s the right thing to do for the business, as well as for our customers.”
When looking for local food products at Longo’s look for its Taste Ontario trademark, a brand that is recognized by both the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Foodland Ontario.