Tony Singh, founder of Fruiticana, began with one store in Surrey in 1994 and expects to have 20 this year. (Submitted photos)

BUSINESS

Surrey’s Fruiticana, 25 years in, is growing strong

From a humble start to nurturing an 18-store business, Surrey’s Tony Singh looks to open two more this year

Tony Singh, founder of Surrey-based Fruiticana, recently celebrated 25 years in business. During that time, he grew his one small fruits-and-vegetables store in Newton into an 18-store empire, with locations now in Surrey, Richmond, Abbotsford, Port Coquitlam, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.

So how’d he celebrate the milestone?

With cake, or maybe champagne?

Nope.

“We worked.”

Singh opened his first grocery store On Dec. 14, 1994, at 72nd Avenue and 137th Street. It was a humble size, at 2,000 square feet, and is still there today, though expanded to 5,000 square feet. Part of Fruiticana’s appeal, Singh says, is that the stores are relatively modest in size.

homelessphoto

“We’re your neighbourhood store,” he says. “It’s a smaller pad, not a big-box store, so it’s made it easier for a customer to go in and out quickly, find the product, get your grocery and go home.”

Most Fruiticana stores today are 4,000 to 10,000 square feet, with the biggest being 10,000 square feet.

“So it’s very easy to go in and out.”

Singh is definitely doing something right. Today, his chain enjoys annual sales surpassing $200 million and soon, he’ll have 20 stores.

“We have one coming up in Surrey this year, and one in New West. So in the next three or four months we’ll have two more stores coming up,” Singh explains. “We’re working hard to provide a good product, and people recognize that. We have the best product at the lowest price possible, in the neighbourhood.”

Singh lives in Surrey and presently has 10 stores here. Roughly 500 Fruiticana employees also call this city home, with some 60 working out of his 125,000 square foot warehouse at 129th Street and 76th Avenue in Newton.

“I would say a majority of our labour force, or our partners who work with us, live in Surrey.”

Singh arrived as a new immigrant to Canada in 1975, when he was 10 years old. His family came from Punjab, lived in an apartment in Toronto at the time and didn’t speak a word of English. Following a trip to the Lower Mainland from Montreal in 1992, he saw an opportunity to get into the fruits and vegetables business here, and as they say, the rest is history.

Why fruits and vegetables? Singh says he’s all about healthy eating.

“My first store we only sold fruit and vegetables. I didn’t even carry a box of salt. After six months, then people said, ‘Well, you know, I need sugar, I need salt.”

homelessphoto

Surrey Fruiticana store, 1995

“I push a lot for healthy eating.”

What’s his favourite fruit?

“That’s a tough question,” he replies. “It’s what’s in the season. Right now, it’s oranges and citrus, and that’s my favorite. In the summer time, it will be mostly melons, and berries. I always say, what’s in season.”

The same goes for vegetables.

Over the years Singh has received numerous honours, as recipient of Surrey Board of Trade’s Businessperson of the Year award, the Premier’s People’s Choice Award for 2014 Business BC Awards, and his business is also a four-time winner of the Now-Leader’s Reader’s Choice Award.

Fruiticana has also donated more than $1 million “for sure” over the years, he says, to various charitable causes, “wherever help was needed.”

Last year, along with its customers, donated $41,593.52 to the Surrey Hospital Foundation, for the Children’s Health Centre.

“I always help the community, I never forget the community who supported me for the last 25 years, and that’s why we’re still here,” Singh says. “We give it back to the community every year, every month, every day.”

Singh made local and national headlines in January 2016 when for about two weeks he set about delivering free baskets of food to more than 500 Syrian refugees, inspired by an elderly neighbour’s generosity toward his own family when they first arrived in Canada.

READ ALSO: Inspired by generosity 40 years ago, Surrey businessman gives groceries to Syrian refugees

“I became a successful businessperson and Canadian because of a simple and powerful message,” he said at the time. “I am sure many of these refugees, especially the children, will go on to make many positive contributions to Canada in the future.”

“Our neighbour invited us over for dinner,” he recalled. “The simple gesture had such a profound impact on me and my life. It showed me what it means to be Canadian. I wanted to pass on that same special feeling to these Syrian refugees arriving in Canada.”

He’s also thankful, he says today, for all his faithful customers.

“I want to thank them from my heart,” Singh says, “and we’ll continue to provide the service we did over 25 years and a lot more to come, and we’ll do better than what we did over those 25 years.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

BusinessGroceriesSurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Staff member at Surrey long-term care facility diagnosed with COVID-19

Fraser Health said a rapid response team is on site

White Rock’s namesake spray-painted black

Vandalism occurred sometime between Friday and Saturday

South Surrey resident blames city after house floods

Marilyn Molter said debris from city-planted maple trees easily clogs street drains

Sunny skies expected across Lower Mainland this week

After weeks of rain and smoke, Environment Canada forecasts clear skies and steady warm temperatures

Senior White Rock election worker not concerned about safety at the polls

‘Casting your vote will be like getting a take out coffee,’ says Elections BC CEO

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

Most Read