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Only remaining independent Dutch food import pioneer sold

Woodbridge-based firm Overweel Colombo supplies broad E.U. line

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

WOODBRIDGE, Ontario - The only remaining independently-owned Dutch delicatessen and cheese importer of the early, post-war immigration era in Canada was acquired recently by another import firm long operated by its Dutch-born founder.

With the purchase of Tops Importing (B.C.) Limited, Jan K. Overweel Limited strengthened its presence in Western Canada. Both companies long ago had expanded beyond the traditional Dutch import trade and now are part of Colombo Importing which has its roots in Italian imports.

Tops’ general manager M.G. (George) Van Beek, who wanted to scale back his involvement in the import business sold his shares together with those held by majority shareholders Ivan and Trudy Visser to Overweel. The new owners have appointed Tops’ sales manager Fred Van Rijswijk to take Van Beek's place as branch manager of Overweel's Western Division.

Tops Importing (B.C.) Limited was formed in 1967 when its founder Cor Van den Top Sr. who had ‘retired’ from his Grimsby, Ontario operation, after moving to the West Coast in the mid 1960s sold his then recently founded B.C. firm to Visser. Van Beek, a 25-years veteran of the Safeway chain, became General Manager in 1981 when Visser decided to pursue other interests.

Herring and cheese

Between Tops, Overweel and Colombo, the new combination's principals supply food lines from many parts of the European Union although cheese appears to be a major commodity.

The recent Tops acquisition follows Colombo's 1998 merger with Overweel. Overweel who came to Canada in 1946 after leaving the Dutch Merchant Navy when WWII was over, first imported salted herring and has sold Frico cheese since 1947. Although well into his eighties, Mr. Overweel still keeps an office at the merged firm. Tops which was formed in Ontario in the 1950s imported Producent cheese among other products. Both Frico and Producent were made by the same cheese makers, prompting the companies to drop the Producent label.

Overweel Colombo has offices and warehouses in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. Several second generation Dutch food importers supply Dutch deli stores across Canada.