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Turco’s North: Doing What the Average Supermarket Cannot Through Fresh Artisan Foods
For over 37 years Turco’s North (Turco’s) has been doing what the big-box grocery outlets and retailers cannot. The New York-based specialty grocer stocks a huge selection of the finest produce, seafood, delicatessen and baked items in addition to a full functioning restaurant and café on premise.
What started as a small fruit stand in the Bronx has grown to a 45,000-square-foot establishment. Preston Turco founded the self-named retailer and catering company in 1976 with one goal in mind; not to be the biggest, but the best in the business.
“I decided I wanted to own and operate one store and do it right,” he shares. “I thought it would be better to invest my time and energy into one store, rather than three or four, so it’s just right. I’m a hands-on owner. I enjoy cooking, and most of our recipes I did through merry time until I was satisfied. I also unload trucks and stock shelves; basically whatever is needed.”
Drawing Core Customers through Service
Turco’s re-opened 13 years ago at a new location in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., and now employs over 150 individuals. “Our team is service-oriented,” explains Preston. “I have managers who’ve been with Turco’s for over 35 years. Service is our No. 1 concern that’s why I have three times the staff than other stores.”
Preston reveals it’s about going above and beyond for the customer. “We really care about the food we’re putting out that’s why, in turn, we draw people to our store that care about quality food,” he says. “We have a very good core customer base. I see the same people shopping at our store three to four times a week. On the weekends we draw people from 15 to 20 miles away, from New York City, Connecticut.”
Turco’s offers customers a welcoming, cleanly environment in which to shop and eat. “We recently spend over $300,000 in renovations, including LED lighting, indoor and outdoor updates and painting,” reveals Preston. “My wife is a clean-freak. She’s always making sure the place is spotless. Our customers consistently comment on how nice and clean our store looks.”
That is not all Turco’s has to offer. “It’s a family-oriented, friendly atmosphere at Turco’s,” shares Preston. “Our customers are more than just numbers; we know them by name. We’ve earned our reputation by serving them and the local community thoroughly and with care.”
The Artisan Standard
Turco’s doesn’t believe in pre-packed, frozen or preservative added foods. What the company does believe in, however, is handmade, from scratch, made with love, artisan prepared food. “Everything is prepared fresh thanks to a team of six culinary chefs,” details Preston.
Turco’s offers a full-service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to mention off premise catering capabilities. “Every day, our kitchens turn out five -or-so homemade soups, freshly baked breads and pizza and at least 100 sandwiches,” reveals Preston. “In fact, our pizza was voted number one in Yorktown Heights.”
When Preston says everything is prepared fresh-daily, he means it. “Nothing is frozen,” he says. “Through two kitchens, we bake our own breads, make our pasta and sauces and smoke our own fish. My pasta equipment cost upward of $250,000; the smoking equipment was about $150,000. We invest the money because it’s worth it to get a quality product.”
Additionally, Turco’s has a 75-foot-long deli counter, which stocks a variety of all-natural Boar’s Head cold cuts and over 20 salads. The fish market is about 70 feet long with over 100 types of salmon, clams, mussels and other items. “You name it, we have it,” assures Preston. “Our cheese department has every kind of you can imagine, from fancy Brie to the traditional cheddar, but what really sets us apart is our produce selection.”
Preston and his team are always looking for ways to better the business. “We’ve recently renovated the produce department,” explains Preston. “You can be sure we’ve got the best selection of fruits, vegetables and herbs around. Many of these items come from independent farmers, straight from the soil. We have a 45-foot trailer that goes to market to stock produce daily.”
Turco’s also offers full-service off premise catering through the company’s two industrial-sized kitchens. “We’ve serviced groups of 600 to 1,000 people,” shares Preston. “We’ve worked for John J. Homestead, Rockefellers and West Point just to name a few. We attract clients simply because we’re nice to people and easy to work with, and we’re reasonably priced.”
Preston admits there is some buzz about a new product Turco’s has in the works. “We’ve jumped on board with several new ventures called My Skinny Rice and My Skinny Pet Treats,” he says. “We’re the test market before these products officially launch in stores.”
Turco’s attended the largest national pet show in Orlando, Fla., where the My Skinny Pet Treats we’re a huge hit. “People loved the product and the packaging,” reveals Preston. “I think it will fly off the shelves once it’s in stock. We already have a backlog of buyers.”
Amid an impressive 37-year run, Preston admits the company has hit some roadblocks. “The hardest part is to keep up with rising expenses without passing a huge increase in price onto customers, especially lately with food costs going through the roof,” he details. “But, because we’re just one store, we have good relationships with our vendors and generally get better prices. We always pay our bills on our before time, so they’ll say ‘give it to Turco’s’ because they know they’re going to get paid.”
Preston acknowledges the hard work and attention to detail that allowed Turco’s to prosper. “Service, exceptional quality and reasonable prices are truly what keep us going,” shares Preston. “My motto is if you start with the best then you can’t go wrong.”
Preston is proud of how far the company has come. “The big part of our success is our help, which enjoy a lot of overtime,” he says. “A happy employer makes it easier to get the job done right.” With Preston at the helm, Turco’s North continues to deliver the best, doing what the big-box grocers cannot through freshest selection of specialty foods.