The fascinating story of two brothers

Interview with Rino Cioffi owner of Cioffi’s Meat Market & Deli
MARCO POLO Please describe your business
Rino Cioffi We provide high quality Italian and European specialty foods, including fresh meats, cheeses, deli meats, pastas and much more. We have three retail locations on Hastings in Burnaby … a deli, meat market, and a Cucina offering gourmet take-out and catering. Fifty percent of our business is now supplying restaurants, cafes, and hotels with these same great products.
MARCO POLO What made you decide to open this business?
Rino Cioffi It was all because of my dad and my family. My dad, Antonio Cioffi used to be part owner of Ugo & Tony’s (now Ugo & Joe’s). He wanted to branch out and start his own business and asked me to join him. I got my share of the money and we began the business together. Family was the most important thing to both my parents. My dad passed away in 1996 of cancer and now myself and my brother Sergio run the business together.
MARCO POLO What was it like when you first started?
Rino Cioffi When we first started we were even busier because we didn’t have much staff. We only had the one deli location on Hastings. We worked so hard day and night. My dad and I would serve customers all day and clean and stock shelves late into the night. I was in my early 20’s, so then I’d go out at night with my friends of course and it was exhausting!
MARCO POLO What do you like most about being an entrepreneur?
Rino Cioffi I like being my own boss. I think I’d have a hard time taking orders from others because I can be a bit stubborn and like to do things my own way! I also get excited about starting new projects and building the business further. The food is another good perk of being my own boss. Honestly, I get to eat great food all day and this is a major bonus.
MARCO POLO What would your customers say they love most about your business?
Rino Cioffi I’m sure they’d say the selection … even I’m amazed with how many different products we carry. If you’re looking for something unique you’ll be able to find it in our store.
We have everything from house-made rabbit sausage to Italian Maraschino cherries to Burrata cheese to fresh yeast for baking…we even carry your favourite household cleaning supplies and toiletries from Italy.
MARCO POLO What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had working with a customer?
Rino Cioffi I could never pick just one memorable experience because I’ve had so many! Over 25 years in business I have met so many amazing customers, many of whom have become great friends. I am lucky enough to be invited to dinners all the time from our customers who want to show me what great cooks they are using our ingredients. Some of my best friends that I have now actually started out as customers. I met my wife because her parents always shopped at our store every weekend. I also spend a lot of time these days going to prayers and funerals of the great customers we’ve had since we opened. They have become much more than customers to me and I always like to pay my respects.
Marco Polo Do you have any exciting plans for the future that you want customers to know about?
Rino Cioffi One of these days we’d love to buy some more property on Hastings so that we can put all three locations together under one roof – the deli, the butcher and the Cucina all in one large store. That’s my dream.
MARCO POLO What is something most people don’t know about the business?
Rino Cioffi A lot of people don’t know how much wholesale we actually do. More than 50 percent of our business is selling our wholesale food products and meat to some of the best restaurants and hotels in the lower mainland and Whistler. We have more than 10 trucks on the road everyday.
MARCO POLO Who are some of your business idols and role models?
And why?
Rino Cioffi Two of my business role models are my friend, John Devita (Control Temp) and my father-in-law, David Bombini (Team Tube, Alta Tube & Bar). I have always looked up to these men because they have had such success as entrepreneurs and do it with such grace. They also have a good life and work balance that I still haven’t yet been able to manage.
MARCO POLO Do you have any advice that you want to share with other entrepreneurs?
Rino Cioffi Don’t get too big too soon. Expanding my business to having three stores and wholesale was a blessing and a curse. More business can mean more headaches sometimes. It is very difficult to manage it all and also find enough staff for all aspects of the business. We now have over 100 employees at our little mom and pop shop! We are continually looking for more staff and it’s difficult to keep up.
MARCO POLO What do you love about this neighbourhood?
Rino Cioffi .I love our customers. Customers in the heights are the best! The Heights is one of the last true neighbourhoods where people enjoy to shop where they live and support small family businesses. Our customers are incredibly loyal and supportive. We have some customers that have been coming to our store everyday for over 25 years. It’s truly unbelievable. Our customers are also very educated on good food and know what they want…and we try to give them what they want!
MARCO POLO If you could go back in time what would you do differently?
Rino Cioffi If I could go back in time I would have bought one of the buildings on Hastings that came up for sale about 12 years ago. If I had done that I would have been able to keep all three departments together under one roof. It’s something I regret everyday.
MARCO POLO What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Rino Cioffi In my spare time my favourite thing to do is share amazing meals with my family.
There is nothing better than making homemade pizza in my backyard with my kids. We love bbq’ing and having large fun family meals with lots of amazing food, good wine and great laughs. It’s always loud, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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