Hamilton family-run business poised for growth even amid global pandemic
Hamilton's Alves Meats & Variety has been serving up the flavours of Portugal and Spain for more than three decades and now they're bringing their unique flair and flavour to a broader audience.
The family-owned operation recently moved into a newly built 4000-sq.-ft warehouse in downtown Hamilton with the intention of ramping up production of their famous Portuguese sausages.
"We're still working out all the kinks," said Michael Alves, who runs his family's expanding wholesale and manufacturing division, explaining that they moved to the new facility at the beginning of June.
The family's retail shop, located on MacNab Street, is still serving up their renowned hot foods and deli selections under the guidance of Michael's sister Michelle and their mother, Eva who still works the counter at the popular deli and convenience store.
"Mom loves seeing all the customers every day," Michael said. "She knows everyone by name. She loves it."
The Alves patriarch, Nick, is still part of the day-to-day running of the family business, providing sales and delivery support for the company's retail partners across Southern Ontario.
Nick and Eva met in the 1970s in Leamington, Ont., and moved to Hamilton after getting married. Before they had a storefront, Nick made a name for himself selling Portuguese peppers, picked from Eva's uncle's farm in Leamington, door-to-door in Hamilton.
It's from these humble beginnings that in the late 80s, the Alveses built their family business.
So while the family is still diligently serving the Hamilton community, their retail footprint has reached a provincial scale and growing and the Alveses are hoping their new facility -- which has been built to meet federal inspection guidelines -- will help them bring this taste of home to other provinces.
"There's a lot of demand in Western provinces, like B.C. and Quebec," Michael explained.
Interestingly enough, Alves currently doesn't have any retail partners in Hamilton.
"We supply a lot of restaurants in the area," he said. "And of course, we have the catering."
Michael says as they find their groove at their new meat processing facility, they will start working on a new line of products featuring new recipes.
Plans for the business's expansion were in the works for some time before COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, so with the virus' arrival in Hamilton, the family did what they could to protect the safety of their staff and customers and were forced to make some tough decisions.
"Thankfully, we haven't had to let anyone go because of COVID," Michael told InTheHammer. "In the beginning, we were pretty anxious but it hasn't been as terrible as we thought or as bad as what other people and businesses are seeing."
During the provincial shut down, Alves Meats continued to offer take-out and provided deliveries to their retail customers in Southern Ontario, they even started offering residential door-to-door delivery of their products -- a return to Nick Alves' first days as an entrepreneur in Hamilton.
"We even saw an uptick in wholesale orders," Michael said.
The pandemic slowed construction on their newly opened facility, but all in all, Alves has weathered the storm gracefully and has even brought on new staff, with plans to hire more in the future, to help with the expansion.
Michael says a lot of his family's success can be attributed to the love and support of Hamilton and its residents.
"We had the opportunity to build outside of Hamilton," Michael explained. "It didn't feel right. This is home."
To honour that community support, the Alves family planned a BBQ to celebrate the opening of their new building but has obviously had to put that on hold.
"Maybe we will be able to host something on our first anniversary," Michael said.
Photo courtesy Alves Meats & Variety Facebook page
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