Our Family, Our History
Tanous (later Anglicized to become Tannis) Nesrallah was the father of the two founding brothers of the Tannis Trading Company Limited. It wasn’t uncommon in earlier times for people arriving in a new country to alter their names so they would be pronounced more easily and recognized by their new neighbours. Such was the case with Toufic and George Nesrallah. The two brothers wanted to honour their father’s first name Tanous (pronounced tahnoose ). However, they felt that changing the name to Tannis would be easier on the Canadian ear. It was also not uncommon for brothers to choose two entirely different names. And so, brother George chose to go by the name George T. (Tannis) Nesrallah, and brother Toufic chose to be known as Toufic Tannis (Nesrallah).
1938-1960 Tannis Trading Company
In 1908, Toufic Tannis was born in Kfarmishky, Lebanon. By age 30 he had purchased a business from a man named Elias Moukail, and for the next two years he and his brother, George T. Nesrallah, got to work creating the Tannis Trading Company Limited. Selling mainly tobacco products, the company opened its doors on Laurier St. in 1940.
In late 1944, the two Tannis brothers learned that their brother, Pte. Elias Michael Tannis of the Lincoln and Welland Rgt., R.C.I.C., was reported missing in action in the battle at Maas River, Holland. Elias owned his own restaurant business on Bank St in Ottawa. Years later, Toufic and George moved their own company operations to Bank St. at Catherine. The Tannis Trading Company was then moved a decade later to Bell St, where a Cash & Carry and a delivery service were born.
1971-1976 In New Hands
Within a year of each other, both Toufic Tannis and George Nesrallah passed away. With the company mired in debt and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, Toufic’s widow Souad stepped in as President of the Company in 1972. Souad not only turned the company’s future around, but she paved the way for a multi-generation management team. By 1976, the company welcomed two milestones: the arrival of the second generation of full-time management, and the introduction of computerized operations.
1977 The Focus Turns to Food
By the late seventies, Company operations had moved to a 10,000 sq. ft. leased facility on Stonehurst Avenue, while the Cash and Carry outlet remained at 289 Bell Street. The management team made a strategic decision to expand into the foodservice industry and installed a 1000 sq. ft. cooler and a 1000 sq. ft. freezer.
1981-1996 Room to Grow
The eighties welcomed a bigger, better world for Tannis, as the Company continued to expand year after year. In 1981, a 38,000 sq. ft. warehouse was purchased on six acres of land at 2390 Stevenage Drive. The freezer capacity was increased to 4,000 sq. ft., and the cooler capacity to 2,000 sq. ft. In 1986, the dry goods warehouse space was increased by 22,000 sq. ft., bringing the total warehouse space to 60,000 sq. ft. and in 1989, a new addition was built and the freezer capacity was expanded by 16,000 sq. ft., increasing the total warehouse size to 76,000 sq. ft.
The nineties brought more expansions as the building at 288 Catherine Street was purchased, and the Cash and Carry operations moved from 289 Bell Street, increasing space from 4,000 sq. ft. to 20,000 sq. ft. The dry goods warehouse on Stevenage Drive expanded once more, bringing the total capacity to 96,000 sq. ft. The nineties also welcomed the Company’s new name: Tannis Food Distributors.
1999-2002 Tannis Gets a Makeover
The next handful of years brought a lot of changes for Tannis. The entire truck fleet was successfully modernized to dual-temperature units, while a major investment was made in computerized technology that contributed to the company’s overall efficiency. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point program (HACCP) implementation began in 2000, and two rounds of renovations and alterations to Head Office brought the facility to 101,000 sq. ft by 2001. By 2002, the Cash & Carry had expanded to 23,000 ft.
2003-2015 New and Improved
Tannis welcomed more expansions to the business in 2003, with yet another increase in freezer capacity bringing the total space to 126,000 sq ft, as well as the acquisition of Capital Coffee and Spice, an Ottawa distributor of premium Brazilian coffee. One year later the company welcomed Valley Distributors to its roster, and in 2006, Tannis proudly launched its fresh, new brand image. In the last year, Tannis has further improved its operations by incorporating a new warehouse voice-assisted picking system. 2015 marks a milestone 75th anniversary for Tannis, as well as the Tannis 21 Foundation which also celebrates it’s 25th anniversary.