Wallace & Carey: Celebrating 100 Years
By Angela Altass
Wallace & Carey, a family-owned business that started in calgary, alberta in 1921 with one truck and eight teammates, is celebrating 100 years in business. Wallace & cCarey stocks more than 7,500 items in 10 distribution centres from ontario to british columbia and is one of canada’s largest independent distribution and logistics companies, servicing more than 7,000 customer locations across Canada.
Wallace & Carey is celebrating by engaging its team to complete 100 acts of kindness during their 100th year, which fits in nicely with the company’s mission statement that includes a commitment to working together in a positive, fair and respectful environment.
“Our 100th anniversary committee includes teammates from all areas and levels of the company,” says Dan Elrod, president, Wallace & Carey. “The intent being that all those wishing to participate in the celebration have the ability to do so, and kindness is something everyone can practice. We are up to 31 events so far; well on the way to exceeding the goal.”
Alongside the company’s philosophy of a positive outlook and being respectful to others is a deep pride and recognition that to stay in business for 100 years, you have to be doing things right.
“In the span of 100 years, any organization is going to develop a deep-seated culture,” says Elrod. “Ideally, that is one of a positive nature, fair and respectful to teammates, customers and all stakeholders of the business. At Wallace & Carey, we have that. With that longevity also comes a great sense of pride in the excellence, endurance and leadership required to stand the test of time. We’re living through one of the greatest challenges as an essential business committed to meeting the needs of our customers and all Canadians. I’m honoured to lead this company and am extremely proud of our leaders and all our teammates.”
Elrod has a close connection with Pat Carey, CEO of Wallace & Carey Inc.
“In 2005, I met Pat as part of a joint venture between Wallace & Carey and my former employer McLane Company in the United States,” says Elrod. “Pat and I remained close over the years and when the time came for him to focus more on the strategic growth of the organization, I said goodbye to retirement and moved to Canada.”
Wallace & Carey embraces continuous improvement in all areas of the business, striving continually to improve through-put in warehouse operations, fuel efficiency improvement via green initiatives and optimized routing, greater inventory efficiency through improved turnover rates “and the thousand other elements required in successful wholesale distribution,” says Elrod.
“Our primary business is the supply of convenience stores throughout the country,” he says. “It has been amazing to witness the evolution in this industry and the innovation driven by necessity that these operators have forged. C-stores have, in some instances, reinvented themselves to become the corner store with supplies of necessities typically found in supermarkets or big box stores. Good examples of this are 7-Eleven (7-eleven.ca) with broad expansion of their food offerings and delivery to home options, and Greenergy / Mobil 1 (greenergy.com) expanded product mix to address consumer’s fill-in shopping needs. Some retailers have actually grown their sales as a result; an amazing accomplishment.”
Elrod acknowledges creative and inventive pivoting to alternative opportunities during the pandemic.
“The theatre business is significant for us as we supply all Cineplex (cinplex.com) and Landmark (landmarkcinemas.com) locations in the country,” notes Elrod. “These businesses have been required to remain mostly closed for the past year, with some exceptions, which has affected their results and ours. Theatre management has found inventive solutions, such as home delivery of their food offerings and exclusive bookings of theatres where allowed by provincial rules. Our business would be severely challenged if not for the creative and inventive pivoting by our customers.”
Wallace & Carey has done some pivoting of its own in recent years.
“Regarding our business model and strategy, we have pivoted in the last few years to be a broader supply chain solution,” says Elrod. “This has involved new markets and non-traditional product lines to an expanded mix of retail channels. Our most significant area of growth has been in transportation services. We now run freight on the lanes between all major cities Ontario and west weekly, and many we cover every day with the potential to service every postal code in the country. Our transportation business has grown 300 per cent in the past two years and we continue on a strong pace in this segment.”
As 2021 progresses, Wallace & Carey is working on plans for numerous activities to celebrate their 100-year centennial.
“While the pandemic has gatherings mostly on hold for now and, like everyone else, we still don’t know what the rest of the year will look like, we will hold a number of events when the time is right,” comments Elrod. “Our CEO Pat Carey is understandably very proud of this accomplishment and the significant role his family has played in our industry for many generations. I’d like to invite anyone interested in this milestone to visit our centennial website at www.wacl100.com.” (#CareyKindness #WallaceAndCarey100 #MovingCanadiansForwardSince1921).
The secret of Wallace & Carey’s success lies with its people and the future looks bright for the company, states Elrod.
“We’re just getting started,” states Elrod. “Our tenure and retention rates are tremendous; people simply want to work here. They know the company is doing its best to support them; this belief and their commitment drives exceptional performance. It would be impossible to name and thank all the customers, teammates, partners, friends, and other supporters who have driven our success and longevity in this business. Still, we will give it our best effort during this centennial year, and to all stakeholders in our industry, our teammates and their families, we say thank you.”
Those working with Wallace & Carey return those feelings of appreciation and express admiration for the longevity and strength of the company over 100 years.
“One hundred years is an amazing milestone that most companies do not reach,” states Mary Shigematsu, key account manager, western region, JTI Macdonald Corp. “The fact that Wallace & Carey is a family-owned business makes this anniversary even more special. Throughout COVID-19, Wallace & Carey has continuously provided that personal touch, even with pandemic restrictions. While we have not been able to conduct business in person, the WC team always has cameras on, ready to engage in meaningful conversation. Everyone on the Wallace & Carey team is amazing. Our connection with the WC team has grown even stronger over the past year and we were able to pivot and have great success.”
Kinpack Ltd. also offers congratulations to Wallace & Carey.
“One hundred years of business is an outstanding achievement,” says Steve Bradford, managing director, Kinpack Ltd. “The world has changed over the last 100 years but certain business principles remain constant. Larry, Frank and Pat Carey and their teammates have built an enduring business around exceptional people and customer service; a formula for continued success.”
JF Turcotte, president, National Smokeless Tobacco Company values his company’s close relationship with Wallace & Carey, which has developed over several decades.
“Frank Carey demonstrated how important it is to have a strong partnership as the foundation of any business dealing,” says Turcotte. “With that comes trust and respect and a simple handshake represents your word. I would say that one of Wallace & Carey’s greatest strengths has been their ability to make decisions quickly and to pivot rapidly as the environment changed. They’ve always looked ahead towards the next opportunity while valuing their existing business. I never had the opportunity to meet Larry Carey but I have a strong feeling that these beliefs originated with him and were passed on to Frank, and now Patrick.”
One hundred years is truly remarkable, especially considering all the changes the industry has gone through, says Turcotte.
“Three generations of Careys have provided Wallace & Carey with the strong and consistent leadership required to succeed in good and difficult times,” says Turcotte. “Wallace & Carey has always treated their customers and suppliers like partners and their employees like family. Their teammates have been such an integral part of their success over the years. No matter what your dealings with anyone at Wallace & Carey, you will encounter their values of family, integrity, kindness, relationships and entrepreneurial spirit. These values live and breathe throughout the organization. Wallace & Carey works only one way and that is as a team.”