Specialty Food Magazine

FALL 2018

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 46 of 91

S eymour Binstein knew when he jiggled a round, wooden container of unopened Camembert that it was not supposed to rattle. In the 1970s, a New York distributor had brought it to one of his 11 Chicago shops, Chalet Wine & Cheese. "It was so old and dried and brown, you could shake it," Binstein recalls. "I said, 'How can you bring me this? What is this?' He told me it was all they had in stock at the time. I couldn't handle it anymore. I had to do it myself." In 1978, Binstein sold his interest in the retail business and the next day started European Imports Ltd. For too many years he had been denied the best of the best from East Coast distributors. "It wasn't all rotten," he says, "but we never really got a fair shake. The ones we worked with didn't want to extend them- selves. Any time there was a problem, they blamed it on freight, saying they'd shipped it in good condition." From trade shows, European travel, and cementing relation- ships of trust, Binstein and his wife, Beverly, built an importing business to serve Chicago and the Midwest. Their three sons, Jeff, Larry, and Glenn, also came on board. European Imports filled what Binstein called a "terrible void" in the region, bringing in fresh, luscious cheeses from France, Italy, and Spain, and cutting out the middle man. "People in Ohio, my first territory, were thrilled when we came to do business with them, knowing they would get quality products every time," he says. It took a couple of years to build a solid foundation, but when European Imports landed accounts at supermarkets like Stop & Shop and Jewel, it gave it the power to branch out more. To offset freight costs and consolidate shipments, the company added complementary specialty food items to its port- folio. Over the years, it acquired several other companies and its warehouse distribution points spread to Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Dallas. In 1984, it added a foodservice division to satisfy chefs' demands for unique, innovative prod- ucts. Sysco bought out European Imports in 2012, at a time when its annual sales had reached $124 million. "I started out selling liquor and wine and the care for them is not severe," Binstein says. "If a bottle of wine doesn't sell today, it'll sell tomorrow. For cheese, you've got to be on top of it every day, go through your warehouse and check what's in. When French cheese comes in, it's got to go out. It can't wait." Seymour Binstein European Imports Ltd. Lifetime Achievement 2018 44 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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