Like some of the world’s greatest ideas, Ben Fraraccio’s small business, Grocery Guy, began with scribbles on a napkin.
About six years ago, Fraraccio, 44, overheard a conversation between two seniors at Cherryhill Village Mall. Over coffee, the pair of ladies discussed how difficult it was to carry groceries from the nearby Metro, the only grocer within walking distance, up to their apartments.
Fraraccio said he leaned over to ask a few questions, then quickly wrote down what he was confident would be a can’t-miss entrepreneurial idea. After posting an ad on Kijiji offering a brand new grocery shopping and delivery service, Fraraccio waited.
“I didn’t get a response for about five months,” he said.
Not even from the inspirational seniors at the mall?
Fraraccio kept his day job (he was delivering liquor through a separate local business, Good Cheer, at the time) but began filling a slow trickle of grocery shopping requests before and after work.
“Eventually it became a thing where I needed a full day, and then two days, and then eventually I let go of the liquor delivery and took this on full time,” he said.
More recently, Fraraccio has taken on the role of dispatcher, manning a phone and organizing his modest, two-person crew through a shared Google calendar. Just before the end of last year, Grocery Guy was fulfilling about 120 orders per month.
Then, in November, business spiked about 24 per cent, Fraraccio said. His average month now includes closer to 220 clients.
I don’t know what we did right … or what someone else did wrong, but … we were dancing in the streets it was so awesome,” Fraraccio said. “Once that happened in November, it was a bit of a sign we better get our (stuff) together and come up with some sort of proper dispatch system.”
Fraraccio wasn’t always in the delivery business. Originally from Scarborough, Fraraccio graduated from Liaison College of Culinary Arts in Kitchener before landing a job in the kitchen of a downtown London restaurant.
But a lingering back issue was making it difficult for him to be on his feet all day, he said. After a stint working in an office, Fraraccio decided he’d rather be making deliveries.
Now, Fraraccio is planning to expand Grocery Guy in St. Thomas, where he’s secured one client so far, and Kitchener. A couple recent trends (besides his own uptick in business) have Fraraccio confident about his timing.
Canada is getting older. For the first time ever, Canadians over 65 outnumber those under 15, according to Statistics Canada, and seniors are Fraraccio’s bread and butter. You can often find Grocery Guy vehicles outside buildings in Cherryhill, and Fraraccio said word of mouth in other senior-heavy communities is driving business.
Retired Canadians in red-hot real estate markets such as Toronto are also discovering London (and Kitchener-Waterloo) as less expensive alternatives once they sell their homes.
But Fraraccio sees opportunities for growth in other markets as well, including young executives, new moms, and anyone without access to a vehicle. He argues his 20 per cent delivery fee is cheaper and more convenient than taking a cab and his service helps cut down on incidental shopping.
“I had a client tell me the other day that we are saving them money because when she goes shopping, she ends up with $20 – $30 worth of other items that weren’t on her list,” Fraraccio said.
Other errands besides groceries aren’t out of the question, either.
“If it does not require you to personally be there, we can do it,” Fraraccio said.
“Just provide us with a list, let us know where you typically shop, and we go and do the rest form there. (We’ll) deliver it right to your door, in most cases right on the kitchen counter.”