Big Erics slices into success

Big Erics slices into success

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Heather Laura Clarke

If you love to cook, bake or just binge-watch cooking shows on the Food Network, you’re cordially invited to step inside a dazzling fantasyland of shiny tools and flashy equipment.

Big Erics CEO Norm Mensour says he loves seeing people’s eyes light up when they walk into a Big Erics showroom and don’t know where to start. At-home chefs of all ages love coming in to shop for the latest and greatest in kitchenware or just drool over the $1,000 drop-in induction warmers.

“They typically come in because they’re looking for the quality tools restauranteurs use, whether that’s a really nice set of knives, pots and pans or a high-quality barbecue for their outdoor kitchen,” says Mensour. “They also love coming to check out the newest kitchen gadgets they’ve seen on cooking shows. It’s a fun place to look around.”

Halifax’s Eric Joy had worked for more than 20 years in the restaurant supply business before launching his own company in 1978 — Big Erics Restaurant Supplies Limited. Joy knew everyone in the business, and everyone knew and trusted “Big Eric” himself. After his death 13 years later, at the age of 68, his wife, Mildred, son, Tony, and partner, Joe George, continued managing and growing the business.

Big Erics continued to be so successful in Nova Scotia that Newfoundland company Sani Pro Inc. decided it would be the perfect way to expand to the Maritimes. Sani Pro purchased the company in 2009 and adopted the Big Erics name, going on to open locations in Moncton and St. John’s and acquire additional businesses: Janitor’s Market Inc., Jessome Food Equipment and Cameron’s Restaurant Equipment.

What started as a small Halifax restaurant supply business, grew into Atlantic Canada’s leader in end-to-end product and service-based solutions, spanning food preparation and service, food safety, facilities maintenance, cleaning and sanitation. Mensour says they offer the best products available, from equipment to tools of the trade —
providing knowledge, personalized consulting and design, training, delivery, installation and service.

With more than half a century of expertise, Mensour says their complete service offering begins with a thorough understanding of each customer’s needs, from restaurants to the discerning home chef and large institutions to independent cleaning businesses.

“Our core value is our people, and we believe if you treat employees well, they’re going to be engaged and committed to making sure your customers are satisfied,” says Mensour. “Some of our people have been working with us for 40 plus years, including the former owners of the companies we’ve acquired.”

The showrooms are open to the public, and Big Erics is so popular with at-home chefs that Mensour says they’re expanding their showroom hours this fall in Dartmouth to better accommodate those who want to shop after work or on the weekend.

Their massive Burnside location includes a newly renovated 10,000-square-foot showroom and a 20,000-square-foot warehouse, which means nearly everything is already in stock when a customer needs it.

Chefs and restaurant managers come in to check out the new products, but Mensour says they’re usually on the hunt for something specific. That’s why we have knowledgeable sales associates ready to help them narrow down their selections and give them alternatives.

“They may want to discuss changes to their menu and look at what they’ll need to accommodate that, like new plates or cooking equipment,” says Mensour. “We have a test kitchen where we’ll move in the equipment they’re interested in and help them cook up their potential menu items to see how everything works for them.”

Although many Canadians are shifting their shopping to online retailers, cooking and baking remain tactile experiences. Mensour says, luckily, Big Erics is in the business of selling products that need to be examined or tried out in person.

“These are the kinds of purchases that you need to see and feel because they’re for a specific need,” says Mensour. “You can do some research online, but our customers want to feel these products — the weight of a knife, the grip of a handle.

Everything they choose is a part of their kitchen experience. We love to ignite the senses.”

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