Turco’s North LLC: Specialty Grocer and Food Service

Preston Turco grew up in the food business in New York City. “My father had a 24-hour green grocer, which was mostly produce on 110th and Broadway,” says Preston. “I picked up that knowledge of the industry.”

Preston helped out his father at the shop, and eventually struck out on his own to open three small vegetable and fruit retail operations in the Bronx. He eventually sold each of them and moved to a 9,000-square foot facility in Hartsdale, N.Y., which after two expansions now spans across 21,000 square feet. “Hartsdale is where I met and married my wife,” says Preston with a smile. “She helped me through all of the tough times.”

After 30 years in Hartsdale, Preston moved to Yorktown Heights, N.Y., where he started Turco’s Norh LLC (Turco’s) in a 38,500-square foot facility. Today Turco’s boasts a broad selection of specialty grocery items, as well as a café and catering division.

“We’ve been in this location for 12 years now,” says Preston. “I just recently remodeled the store, including the produce department, and we also widened the isles. Now we have the most beautiful supermarket in Westchester [County].”

Preston’s commitment to Turco’s is evident. “My love for produce has never left me, and my love for produce is where I concentrate a great deal of my time,” he says. “My goal is to be the best, not the biggest, and I am so grateful to all of my customers who have been loyal to us during all of these past years.”

The store’s size has left ample room for the business to continue growing, both in service and staff. “We currently employ 150 people,” explains Preston. “About three times as many as most stores our size.”

Get It While It’s Hot

Inside the store shoppers can find several departments, offering everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to quality meats at Turco’s full-service deli. The store also has a hot food cafeteria, both local and unusual seafood, gourmet pastas, as well as cheeses from around the world.

The market offers a variety of prepared foods as well, which customers can eat in or take out. “We’re in the grocery business; we’re fully stocked, but fresh food is what we are known for,” explains Preston.

Turco’s has an assortment of options for every meal to satisfy every customer’s palate. Customers who are pressed for time in the morning can stop in for a taste of Turco’s hot breakfast buffet and a coffee for the ride to work. And then, of course, after a long day at the office customers can choose from an array of meal options for the entire family. “A hot food bar offers seven daily entrees that stressed mothers and fathers can box up and take home to the kids,” says Preston. “And with no cooking necessary.”

The store’s deli department offers sliced meats and cheeses for quick and easy meals, as well as several prepared salads featuring ingredients like potato and couscous. Additionally, Turco’s has an in-house pizza counter that serves up both slices and full pies. “There are 20 varieties of specialty pizza available daily,” says Preson. And Frank, the shop’s pizza man, boasts over 40 years of experience, and only uses the freshest gourmet ingredients on each custom pie.

Power People

Three executive chefs, all graduates of the Culinary Institute of America, are at the helm of Turco’s catering department. The store offers the same fresh, gourmet ingredients that Turco’s offers in its grocery departments. If wanted, customers can hire on the team of experienced chefs, cooks and servers for any event, from company luncheons to wedding dinners. Turco’s menu is continuously expanding, and includes hors d’oevres, fine seafood, pasta, meat and dessert.

Preston places a huge emphasis on treating people well, whether customers or employees. “We operate differently than most supermarkets,” he says. “Most people in this business offer part-time work because they don’t want to pay benefits. Our full-time employees get all benefits, and some of them work 50 to 60 hours a week.”

Many of Preston’s employees have been with the company for decades, which doesn’t come as a surprise due to their treatment. With the economic hardships, Preston says if the schedule seems understaffed, many of his workers are asking for the extra hours. He says that paying extra for overtime outweighs the cost of training new employees, and the overtime also helps out families who have been put in a tight spot.

Preston’s caring attitude is contagious, as the employees are happy to see him at work on a daily basis. “I work seven days most weeks, and arrive at 6 a.m., and stay as long as needed during the holidays,” says Preston. “It’s hard not to put in 12- or 14-hour days.”

Additionally, Preston maintains close professional relationships with his managers and employees alike. “They’re like family,” he says. “We take managers on vacation every year.”

The growth of the company and satisfaction of Preston’s employees is a priority, and according to Preston take precedence over revenue. “I don’t want to be the biggest; I just want to be the best,” repeats Preston.
Preston says that his biggest challenges are related to the economy, and inflation. “It’s the same problem everyone in this business is facing,” he says. “There’s been an increase in pricing and every time you turn around you’re paying a different price.”

Many of Turco’s meats and seafood have doubled in price in the last 10 years. “You just have to adjust,” says Preston. “We’re still buying steaks, we’re just buying less.” Over the years Preston has remained incredibly present in the operation of his business, as he works side-by-side with Turco’s managers through the challenges of streamlining.

Because of Preston’s many qualities and ambition Turco’s has maintained steady business throughout the recession, and the company has established a strong reputation for quality service and products. “We’ve had consistent growth each year where other stores have not,” says Preston proudly.

Turco’s has become the best in the industry, and still managed to have happy employees as well as happy customers. “Good food is our business,” says Preston, and business at Turco’s North LLC is better than ever.