THE decision 40 years ago to concentrate on wholesaling rather than retail has paid dividends not only for the owners of Perth’s Re Store, but for thousands of lovers of fine European food.
John Re opened the first Re Store nearly 70 years ago and the business has since become a major importer.
Now operated by John and Maria Re’s children and grandchildren, the company consists of two retail outlets, one in Leederville and one in Northbridge, as well as a wholesale outlet located on Aberdeen Street in Northbridge.
The business employs 108 people and stocks 4,500 products, of which 2,500 are imported.
But according to company spokesman John Ferrari (John Re’s grandson), the company could have become a franchise retail operation.
“In the mid 1960s wholesaling was not a huge area. The demand was there for more stores and he [John Re] could have opened more but he decided to wholesale,” he said.
“That way other food outlets could have the food.”
Apart from servicing continental delicatessens and supermarkets, European Foods (the wholesale arm of The Re Store) has 900 coffee machines in the WA market and more than 2,000 cafes stock its coffee brand, Braziliano.
“A lot of that didn’t come overnight though. It is not because we were cheaper or we gave away more, it is because we have been in the business for so long and we work with our customers,” Mr Ferrari said.
Mr Re developed the coffee brand in the late 1930s, a time Mr Ferrari said Australians knew little about the beverage.
Years later, Mr Re decided better education was required in order for people unfamiliar with fresh coffee to understand that it was a better drop than instant varieties.
“He had someone paint a mural depicting the process of growing coffee beans to help educate the people that fresh coffee was better coffee,” Mr Ferrari said.
That essence of education has evolved into the company’s coffee education centre, launched in 1999. The centre’s 3,500th student graduated this year.
European Foods was the first importer to bring Baci chocolates to Australia and sun-dried and semi sun-dried tomatoes to Western Australia.
“In the 1960s my aunty went on her honeymoon cruise and discovered Baci chocolates. She decided she wanted to have them in Perth so the company began importing them,” Mr Ferrari said.
“There are a lot of similar stories like that, and that’s how it has grown by not being able to get things here and just importing it in.”
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