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Exo Fruits gives Montrealers a taste of exotic produce

by Joel Gebet | May 13, 2010
You won't find any sales circulars or flyers at Exo Fruits. That's because the store's general manager, Giovanni Daddio, does not believe the store needs them.

"We do not advertise and give away merchandise to get customers in," he said. "Our philosophy is only one. We believe in service and only the best quality of the product at a decent price."

Mr. Daddio bought the store, which has a 3,600-foot selling area, in the early 1980s. He sold it to its current owner, Amjad Ansari, in 1990, but remained on as its general manager.

Exo Fruits -- short for exotic -- caters to an upper-middle-class clientele that live in the area, he said, noting that about 40 percent of the store is dedicated to produce, another 40 percent to gourmet grocery items and the remaining 20 percent to deli and cheese.

"Our store specializes in organic fruits and vegetables, nuts and dairy products," he said. "We don't sell any junk food here, only the good stuff. If you're a person who likes to keep in shape, you would shop here."

Mr. Daddio said that the store carries approximately 450 SKUs, about 15-20 percent of which are organic. It sources its organic produce primarily from Montreal wholesaler Les Aliments Bercy and its conventional produce from other major Montreal wholesalers.

When the Quebec deal is in season, he said, "100 percent of the store's vegetables" are sourced from local growers at Montreal's wholesale produce market, Growers' Place.

Mr. Daddio, who has been in the produce industry for 40 years, said that cleanliness is very important for Exo Fruits. "My store is like a pharmacy," he said proudly. "I have a guy come in seven days a week because I believe that food and cleanliness go together."

The store employs 10 people in the produce department, several of whom are dedicated to cleaning, trimming and checking the quality of each piece of produce before it reaches the sales floor.

"We don't dump in a cup and then at home the customer has to clean it - we hand pick everything," he said, noting that the retailer will search for unique items for its customers.

"We have items from Italy, France, Kenya -- anything exotic, we'll go get it," he said. "I'm always the first one to have new things. If [shoppers] don't find it here, no one else has it."

(For more on Montreal, see the May 10, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)