What were you up to in 1967?
Felix Gistenelli and Dick Wheeler were building a meat company to serve the finest upscale foodservice operations in Fort Lauderdale and the Caribbean.
Dick’s career at Dun and Bradstreet provided him the experience and expertise in accounting to allow him to offer after hours bookkeeping services for the local Anderson Meat Company and then he partnered with Felix to do accounting and plant management for the newly formed Grand Western Brands, which operated in 1 trailer on Felix’s property and in rented space in a nearby cold storage facility for their export business.
Soon after their start up in 1968, a facility was built on the property and a full service steak cutting and distribution operation was established. The building consisted of offices and the refrigerated meat processing plant on the ground floor and an apartment on the second floor designed to be Felix’s residence.
Felix and Dick and a growing team, ran Grand Western Brands as a full service meat company delivering premium steaks and chops to the finest restaurants, hotels and clubs in Florida and beyond until 1976 when Felix decided to move on to seek other endeavors.
In 1976 when Dick became sole owner, he started taking the company into more broadline distribution and serviced Grand Western’s growing customer base with more than just steaks and chops but more of a full line of food service solutions.
Between 1979 and 1986 with a great base of local customers and some regional multi-unit customers, Grand Western was on an upward growth trajectory.
During this period, the addition of key personnel in the plant and office as well as Craig Duncan in operations and Scott Van de Bogart in Sales allowed Grand Western to broaden their reach and over the next 10 years increase revenue from around 5 million to nearly 50 million annually.
In 1988 Dick Wheeler shared the company’s success by rewarding his key people with shares of ownership in the company.
Between 1988 and 2000 about 25 key employees were awarded stock with Craig Duncan and Scott Van de Bogart acquiring the controlling interest as Dick Wheeler implemented his succession plan.
Upon Dick’s retirement around 2004, Scott and Craig took the reins and continued to grow Grand Western to a company of about 100 employees and 18 trucks refocused on the core business of custom cut, aged steaks and freshly cut chops for upscale foodservice operations.
In 2013, it became evident that there were distinct and mutually beneficial synergies between Grand Western and Cheney Brothers Inc., an independently owned, major broadline distributor sharing a common marketplace. As the benefits of a merger were explored, a deal was struck and Cheney Brothers purchased the assets of Grand Western.