St. Lawrence Market in Toronto is home to a bulk food store that’s been around since the 1970s, and it’s actually been run by the same family the entire time.
John Grisanzio came to Canada from Mola di Bari, Italy, and started Domino’s Foods with a few hundred square feet of bulk nuts and dried fruits.
His wife Linda started to help a few years after the store opened, and now, in addition to nuts and dried fruits, they also offer many imported products such as San Marzano tomatoes, vanilla from Madagascar or from Tahiti, Italian olive oil and Belgian chocolate.
They also have spices, coffee, hand-picked Persian saffron and around 50 varieties of Italian pasta.
Other interesting items include local hemp hearts, twenty varieties of vegetable chips, seeds, chestnuts and flours.
“Our best products are a reflection of what our taste buds prefer,” Giovanni Grisanzio, John’s son who still works with him at Domino’s, tells blogTO.
Longstanding relationships with suppliers like JohnVince Foods and Aurora Borealis import are to be thanked for their wide range of articles.
Domino’s was one of the first bulk stores in Toronto to allow people to bring their own reusable bags, jars and containers.
John’s longtime friend, Domenico, aka Domino, also helped him start the store, and it was named in his honor.
“I remember my mum Linda taking the subway to King St. station holding rolls of coins in her purse and her other arm carrying me,” Grisanzio says, recalling memories of around the four years old.
“My first paycheck was a $2 bill, between my sister Chiara and my brother Giacomo. We used to clean the cash register and whatever was left under the scale was ours. We wanted to be paid in candy but that never happened.”
While the place is still family-run as it has been from the start, Grisanzio shouts out longtime employees Q and Sonia who “are always ready to help,” have excellent customer service skills, and are apparently able to keep thousands of wholesale prices memorized in their heads.
In March 2020, the store had to start enforcing plastic gloves and social distancing in the store, and started washing its shovels frequently.
Taking orders by phone or email and packing items ahead of time for customers to pick up through a curbside program at St. Lawrence Market was the best way for Domino’s to survive during the closings.
John is now close to retirement age, but still comes in at 5am on Saturdays to ensure all items are checked and customers are taken care of, and for product feedback old and new.
Domino’s Foods is located in the northwest corner of the basement of St. Lawrence Market. It’s a bit hidden, but once you spot it, you’ll understand why it’s thrived for half a century.