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Grocery Business Hall of Fame: In Conversation with Paul and Michael Higgins, Co-CEOs, Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee

Paul Higgins

First job in the business? Age 14, sweeping floors at our green coffee storage in midtown Toronto. It taught me three lessons: being on time, the importance of a clean environment and the need to get a good education.

What do you like best about the industry? Definitely the people are what make the industry. Food and beverage people are passionate, friendly and deliver an important service to Canadians.

What can the industry do better? It is all about partnership and this has been the case since I started in the industry. Buyers and sellers need to embrace the concept of working as partners on the same team, rather than as competitors.

A memorable career moment? There are a lot of memories over the past 50 years, but a highlight was in 1998 when we embarked on building our first production facility in Fort Worth, Texas. It was a frightening decision, since Canadian companies had mostly failed in their attempt to compete in the U.S. It has proven to be a great decision and success.

Michael Higgins

First job in the business? At 15, I started working at our warehouse on Castlefield Road. I would work during the summer months until I started full-time in 1974. My job would change every summer and become more challenging. I reported to work at 8 a.m. every day. My dad made sure we didn’t have it easy. I learned a lot from my summer jobs, and it helped me mature into the business when I started in 1974.

What do you like best about the industry? Canada is a global leader in innovation in the grocery industry. Our selection is incredible. We have the best variety of fruit, meat, dairy, fish and vegetables, and the industry continues to upgrade grocery stores across the country. Dealing with the people at the many retail chains across Canada has been fun. Being in the business for close to 50 years, I’ve seen a lot of change in the industry, but in a good way.

What can the industry do better? Working with each other, not against each other. Partnerships help everyone prosper.

A memorable career moment? My brother Paul and I opened a brand-new tea and coffee plant in Fort Worth, Texas in 2000. We had 20 employees then, and now we have 180 people working in the plant. It’s been great fun to see our business grow in the U.S.

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