C.W. Shasky & Associates Ltd. remains true to its core values

C.W. Shasky & Associates

By Amy Bostock

In 1984, when Charles Walter Shasky was 54 years old, he took a leap of faith and left his role as president and general manager of a major retail/ foodservice broker to start his own company. Now, 40 years later, C.W. Shasky & Associates Ltd. is one of Canada’s most significant food brokers, representing top foodservice brands such as TABASCO®, Patak’s, Rosina Foods and Monin to name a few.

Headquartered in Oakville, Ont., the family-owned company, whose portfolio includes category-leading manufacturers and brands both provincially and nationally, still maintains the same principles and set of core values laid out by its founder. 

“Our core mantra or approach to satisfying our customers has always been based on our belief that quality stands for something,” says Daryl Lunney, vice-president Marketing & Business Development at C.W. Shasky & Associates Ltd., adding the company’s vision is passion and commitment to the foodservice community and helping grow its brands.

That vision has resulted in numerous Broker of the Year awards and, more importantly, customer retention. In fact, one of the company’s first clients, the American Original Clam Company (now Sea Watch International) is still part of the C.W. Shasky family.

And according to Mike Shasky, president & owner, C.W. Shasky & Associates Ltd., many of its long-term partnerships — such as Stanislaus, McIlhenny Company (Tabasco) and Rosina Food Products — are with family-run businesses whose values align with his company’s.

“I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but a lot of the organizations that we continue to prosper with are family-run type businesses, whether they’ve been around forever or around for a short period of time,” says Shasky. “It’s not something that we’re searching for, but we do seem to gravitate towards them.”

But success can be a double-edged sword, says Lunney, who cites M&A activity as one of the main reasons they stop representing clients. “We tend to have significant sustainable success on a lot of brands that we no longer represent and, in most cases, it’s because they’ve become targets of mergers and acquisitions due to that success.”

Another major challenge, says Shasky, was “getting through the pandemic, trying to manoeuver and figuring out our place in the world. Now, post-pandemic, those continue to be business challenges.”

“Our approach has always been [to have customers] see, smell and taste the difference quality makes,” says Lunney. “But that becomes a little bit more difficult if we’re operating in a virtual world. And all of a sudden, you layer in inflation, a shrinking labour pool, supply-chain obstacles, and all of a sudden, the face-to-face relationship, which to me is the essence of foodservice, becomes more challenging.” 

Despite myriad industry challenges, 40 years later, C.W. Shasky remains relevant in the Canadian foodservice landscape, “because we deliver,” says Shasky. “We deliver a service and we continue to invest in the industry and our customers so we can stay relevant to what’s going on around us. I hate to use the word pivot, but we’ve pivoted to adapt to customer’s needs and wants.”

The company has invested heavily in its future, including its 25,000-sq.-ft. head office in Oakville, Ont. that boasts a state-of-the-art 4,000-sq.-ft. culinary and mixology centre to offer customers a “see, smell and taste” approach to its products. Plans are also underway to add a studio café in partnership with one of its brands as a home base for future innovation and training. “It’s all about education and providing a service to the industry,” says Shasky.

The team at C.W. Shasky also believe in being of service to larger community and have been long-time supporters of We Care, which helps send children with disabilities to fully accessible camps. We Care is comprised of more than 80 members sponsors from the foodservice and hospitality industry, whose membership fees cover all the organization’s administrative costs, which means every dollar donated and raised during annual events goes directly to sending kids or disabilities to accessible camps. We Care is Easter Seals Canada’s largest annual contributor. Shasky was a board member for many years.

It’s also heavily involved in the Canadian Culinary Federation, with its corporate chef, Chef, Ryan Marquis, currently serving as the association’s president. 

“We’ve also invested heavily over the years in the up-and-coming culinary talent and students in the country through specific culinary school sponsorships,” adds Shasky. 

He says one thing that the pandemic taught him was the importance of simplicity, necessity, excellence, speed, execution and accuracy. “Be there for your customers, and do what you say. And here we are, 40 years later, actually having some of the best years of our corporate history.”

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