“Courchesne Larose has changed. We’ve evolved to meet the needs of the future fresh fruit and vegetable market. We’ve taken steps to add on-demand, direct-to-you service,” said Guy Milette, vice president of business development and international.
Courchesne Larose Ltd. is a forward-thinking firm that operates as a wholesaler in the import, export and distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables. The company’s mission is to offer its clients the most comprehensive showcase and the largest and best distribution network in eastern Canada. Courchesne Larose offers product from all four corners of the globe and services a client base all over Canada and the East Coast of the United States.
Newly located in Anjou, a borough in the eastern end of Montreal Island, the company is in a prime location with access to major transportation networks. Construction of the new facility began in March 2010 and was completed by December 2010. After a whirlwind construction, its brand new state-of-the-art facilities are something to behold. Every inch of the building has been carefully planned with an emphasis on productivity and efficiency. Thanks to the technologies and systems used in the new facility, the firm’s energy costs have been reduced by 40 percent.
Despite the staggering size, covering 125,000 square feet and with a storage clearance of 55 feet allowing four pallets high, the new build has increased the speed at which the company operates and has allowed the company to double its capacity. The floor plan has also been carefully thought out, taking into account pallet placement for maximum order fulfillment and productivity.
From the state-of-the-art banana-ripening room, an electronically controlled inventory and order fulfillment program, custom lifts that can reach four pallets high, loading and unloading docks that allow truck doors to open inside the building to eliminate freezing damage, every detail has been carefully thought out and executed for maximum efficiency.
The sheer number and volume of products Courchesne Larose now handles is staggering. More than 200 trailer loads are received every week as well as approximately 25,000 cases of grapes and 35,000 cases of bananas. It ships orders ranging from full loads to less than half a pallet with multiple items per order.
“Our new layout has allowed us to provide on-demand service. The way the new facilities were designed, we can now respond rapidly to orders no matter the size,” said Mr. Milette. “We are open 24 hours [a day] and thanks to the new layout can quickly and efficiently fulfill last-minute and urgent orders.”
Where other business models may accept orders one morning for next day delivery, Courchesne Larose has moved to on-demand service. Its knowledgeable sales staff, self-serve online ordering system, and efficient order fulfillment system allow the company to meet customer requests as needed. “It now takes approximately 25 to 30 minutes to assemble an order containing up to 40 different items which used to take us up to three hours in our previous building,” said Mr. Milette.
As no detail was overlooked, the health and welfare of Courchesne Larose’s 220 employees was also taken into consideration in the new building plans. Safety precautions are evident throughout the building. A bistro restaurant that overlooks a soon-to-be-opened outdoor patio is managed by two chefs that ensure fresh fruits and vegetables are part of the daily complementary menu. The atmosphere is upbeat and friendly throughout the building adding to the positive work environment.
“We work hard and we respect one another. I think our atmosphere is unique and despite our size, this is a family-run business. The Routhier family has been running Courchesne Larose for generations and understands the history, the path that brought us to where we are today but also looks to the future,” said Mr. Milette.
A big part of the company’s success is its distribution model as well as its control of their own transportation network. The truck fleet has grown to 35 trucks from 10 trucks a decade ago. “We are finding that more and more customers want us to go to them,” he said.
“We listen and respond to our customers’ needs and we have changed our business model, we have added direct store delivery to our wholesale, import and distribution operations. We’re responding to a need in the Canadian marketplace and are looking ahead to meet future demands and requirements,” concluded Mr. Milette.
In 2018, Courchesne Larose will celebrate its 100 anniversary, no doubt that at that time they’ll be thinking ahead to the next 100 years.