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A 134 www. bus- ex. com October 08 Food, gloriousfood Great food from interesting places is the business of European Imports Ltd. Ruari McCallion gets a taste from Trish Pohanka s well as interesting dances and colorful parades, the immigrant heritage of the US brings us something else to enjoy— food. Fancy a taste of Italy, a soupçon of France, a dash of Australia or a slice of Argentina? It shouldn't take long to fi nd, and it may well be served in convivial restaurant surroundings. Your hosts may very well, in turn, have obtained their supplies from European Imports Ltd., which has been specializing in importing great tastes from faraway places for over 30 years. " We are a business- to- business operation, selling to specialty food retailers and upscale restaurants and hotels," says Trish Pohanka, director of purchasing and a 16- year veteran with the company. " We were founded in Chicago in 1978 by Beverly and Seymour Binstein, and we're still a family- owned company. We now have fi ve warehouses, in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Arizona, and as the result of a recent acquisition, San Francisco. We sell to 40 states; we even have one account in Alaska, in the center of the state." The California connection came about as a bit of serendipity. European Imports didn't have an interest in pursuing the well- served California and West Coast market, but a company there was a good match, and it approached its Midwest colleague with the right offer at the right time. " The company is very strong in our core markets in the central US, and we saw no need

October 08 www. bus- ex. com 135 European Imports Ltd. based companies were acquired, Gourmet Foods International and World Delicacies. com. While its geographical area has expanded, its core market remains a constant, as do its products. " Thirty- three percent of our business is cheese," Pohanka says. As it's coming from far afield, that must present some logistical challenges. " Handling perishables is one of our core capabilities, but it isn't all as short- term as you may think. Brie, for example, has a long shelf life. The more perishable items we ship in by air. Our forecasting system takes into account our sales over the past three months, 12 months, and the levels of the previous year, so any guesses are very educated. Shipments leave weekly from France. The lead time is an issue with some countries: we bring in lamb, beef, olive oil, nuts, muesli, and Murray River salt, an inland salt from Australia, and lead time from there can be eight weeks. We will airfreight if necessary and even inventory- fill from local sources, if need be." In the Chicago warehouse, European Imports uses RF tagging, which has greatly aided logistical control. " All items are scanned in and tracked, with very precise dating," Pohanka to expand," Pohanka says. " But the company there pretty much mirrored what we do, and if we can find a good match and can move in without changing our core business, then we will consider the opportunity." European Imports' expansion has been a combination of organic growth, new markets and acquisitions. It launched its foodservice operation in Chicago in 1984, serving white- tablecloth restaurants, caterers and foodservice jobbers primarily with European cheeses. It has never gone full- speed down the acquisition trail; its first was the cheese and specialty food division of Noon Hour Foods ( Chicago) in 1987. Six years later, the distribution business of Charlotte Charles, Inc. ( Chicago), joined the family. Four years on and another Chicago company, Wild Game Inc., came aboard. The year 2000 was relatively busy, with two purchases: the distribution business of the Life in Provence label and Pee- Wee Imports, which enabled the company to branch out of its heartland into the growing market of Arizona. Since then, Raisin River Fancy Foods, another Chicago business, has joined, and Classic Gourmet Inc. of Atlanta provides a strong base in the Southeast. In 2007, the distribution business of two Dallas-