P.A. Fine Foods Rebrands as Complete Distribution Services
By Angela Altass
As of March 1, P.A. Fine Foods & Distributors, a Canadian independently owned and operated company that was established in 1985, has rebranded to Complete Distribution Services Ltd.
A direct to store distributor servicing the Canadian prairies and the far north with multi-temperature distribution services, the company was started by Lori Schultz in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan as a distributor of Hygaard Fine Foods sandwich products. Shortly after the company’s creation, Lori’s husband Bob, who had worked in direct to store distribution since 1960, joined his wife at P.A. Fine Foods and in 2002 they welcomed their son Steve into the family business.
“The ownership of the company is not changing,” explains Steve. “We remain a family-owned business – the same family since 1985. My father fully retired in 2014 and my mother has semi-retired by stepping down as president on January 1 and taking on the chairperson of the board role. I have taken on the position of president and managing partner.”
The business has grown over the years and Steve says the new name in an indication of its evolution.
“When my mom established the company, it was very regionally based around Prince Albert and she was very focused on packaged sandwiches,” says Steve. So, she called it P.A. Fine Foods. Over the last 36 years, the company has grown in the assortment that we carry. We are up to 3,300 items, many of which are not food and our geography has grown vastly from the Prince Albert region to the majority of the prairie provinces. So, the vision was to come up with a name that we felt would suit us today as well as something that wasn’t restrictive to growth in the future. That is how we came up with Complete Distribution Services as it really does serve those points very well.”
With operations in Calgary, Edmonton, The Pas, Winnipeg, Prince Albert, Regina and Saskatoon, Complete Distribution Services is poised for future success. Offering buy/sell distribution with complete merchandising services to retailers, the company carries a wide array of food and beverage, electronic accessories, concession goods and nicotine vapor products. The company also provides third party logistics for strategic partners, such as Wallace & Carey, Red Bull Canada Distribution, TransCold Distribution and George Wakefield Foods. It also works with strategic alliance partners, such as Jardin Foods in Peace River, Stanley Foods in Red Deer, and Arnason Distributors in Thompson.
Steve admits that the name transition is somewhat bitter sweet for himself, the family and staff. “It’s been a family endeavour since the very beginning,” he notes. “I came here after school in kindergarten. The business is 36 years old and I am only 33 years old so I grew up with it. For me, it’s like the identity of my family and my life is changing and while it’s exciting to do this, every once in a while, when I have a moment to reflect, it can get a little emotional too. But, we are certain that we are making the right decision and the sweet definitely outweighs the bitter. It’s 95 per cent excitement. I am so proud to be in the chair I am in and to represent my family in the business that my parents built. I am so lucky that they decided to engage in a succession plan where one day I can fully own the business. They could have jumped out quite successfully at various points but they always knew that I was interested in coming behind them and continuing to grow the business and they always honoured my wishes unselfishly. I consider myself very lucky and very happy.”
Staff turnover is low and morale is high at Complete Distribution Services.
“We are very fortunate in that turnover is less than 10 per cent of our overall staff every year,” says Steve. “We have 140 employees and a lot of them are long-term. Our longest serving teammate started in 1989 and we have numerous people who have been with us for 10, 15 or 20 years.”
Steve is looking forward to discovering what the future holds for Complete Distribution Services. With a mission statement of partners in profit – delivering mutually profitable programs to customers through hands on service and merchandising excellence, the company services convenience and gas retailers, First Nations and Inuit communities, grocery stores, drug stores, resorts, concessions, recreational facilities, schools and universities, hotels and law enforcement.
“For the future, I see controlled growth,” states Steve. “We’ve gone through some pretty wild growth spurts in the past, particularly in the 2014 expansion that effectively doubled our sales the next year. With that came a lot of risk and challenges that we successfully worked through. I would say the future will be more of a sustainable, steady pace of growth. I don’t have a crystal ball to tell what the next opportunity will be but I can say that we are very much open for business and new opportunities. We don’t know exactly what the future holds but our goal is to continue to grow the business geographically and in sales revenue for years to come.”
All customer accounts remain active with the new name and all vendors continue to be paid from the same banking establishment. “We are effectively the same company under a new name,” states Steve.
These are some of the key moments in the history of P.A. Fine Foods (recently rebranded to Complete Distribution Services Ltd.) In 1985, Lori Schultz started P.A. Fine Foods in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan as a distributor of packaged sandwiches.
In 1991, P.A. Fine Foods moved into its’ first building with office space and refrigerated storage. Prior to this, they shared warehouse space with other businesses and their office was in the basement of the Schultz family home.
In 1992, Lori and Bob Schultz expanded their business and opened a branch warehouse in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Major acquisitions occurred in 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2005 and the company branched out into new product categories with additional territory coverage.
In 2010, the company moved into its’ current head office facility in Prince Albert, with 30,000 square feet of warehousing space. It was 10 times the size of the previous location.
In 2014, Bob’s retirement marked a major milestone for the company and the Schultz family and Steve transitioned into the role that had been held by his father. This is also the year the business expanded into Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg.
In 2021, Lori steps down as president and into semi-retirement as she takes on the position of chairperson of the board. The company is rebranded from P.A. Fine Foods to Complete Distribution Services.