Tin Man By Sarah Teitel 2006

The mysterious Mr. Goudas stands by his brand. By Sarah Teitel

IT'S SAID OF CELEBRITIES that they possess an epic quality ¨C a grandiosity that's manifest in them even before they become famous. Requisites for fame, it seems, are the gumption and imagination it takes to act as though you have it even when you don't. 

If that's the case, it shouldn't be long before Mr. Goudas supplants the Green Giant as the country's most recognizable character on a can.

Peter Goudas, the brain behind a leading Canadian food brand, was born just outside Athens in 1942.
He wasted no time asserting himself as a serious entrepreneur, establishing his first business, a construction outfit, at the young age of16.

Fours years later he was drafted into the Greek military, and in 1967, after completing his term as an air force mechanic, Goudas immigrated to Canada.

Like many immigrants, Goudas arrived in Toronto almost penniless and unable to speak English.
By 1969, he had picked up enough of the language to negotiate the opening of his first store in the city's Kensington Market.

Initially, Goudas sold traditional Greek produce, but he was influenced by the neighborhood's of languages and dialects: from Europe, the Caribbean, Asia.

Searching for a comestible common denominator, Goudas tried an experiment: he imported a small quantity of Jamaican fruit and vegetable staples.

They sold quickly and completely. Inspired by that success, Goudas began bringing in larger, more varied shipments.
He began to package rice bearing his name and the now iconic prefix. In July 1970, he introduced Mr. Goudas ginger beer, and from there the brand evolved to appeal to the multicultural city, expanding wildly.

The products began making inroads at local supermarkets, thanks largely to Goudas, who tirelessly monitored the pulse of his consumer base.

If a neighbourhood's demographics changed, Goudas responded with a prompt overhaul of the merchandise he was distributing there.
When Toronto's Jane-Finch corridor, once predominantly Jamaican, experienced an influx of Sri Lankan and Somalis, Goudas's stock adapted in accordance - chapatti flour and couscous joined black-eyed peas and ackees in brine on his shelves.

When Chinese and Indian immigrants began settling in Woodbridge, which originally has been an Italian stronghold, Goudas was there with lychees in syrup, Patna rice, and madras curry paste.

Goudas's aplomb at gauging Toronto's evolving population wasn't just an entrepreneurial endeavor, it was also a hobby.

His passion for all the world's music, not just big-label pop, inspired him to purchase a nightclub in 1970.
He dubbed it the 813 Club and instituted an ethnically diverse playlist.
The club quickly became a prime destination for parties from Toronto's Latin and Caribbean communities, and a prime opportunity for market research: Goudas gave away samples of new products, listening in as patrons "reviewed them".

Occasionally, Goudas himself would spin records under the alias, Mr. Wu (for reasons unknown, patrons assumed the mystery DJ was Asian,and Goudas simply went along with the assumption), a perfect example of Goudas's ability to conflate diverse ethnicities and cultures in his own peculiar way.
Today, on the label of one can of Mr. Goudas's green lentils, the name of the product is stamped in six different languages. Goudas himself maintains he is an expert discerner of ethnicity, saying he can "tell within 10 yards whether a man is from Ghana or Guyana."

Over the past three decades, Goudas has continued to diversify his inventory, entering into production partnerships with factories in about a dozen countries on five continents.
This effectively cemented the Mr. Goudas ethos: a stalwart dedication to ¨C as stated on the company's sprawling, eclectic website ¨C "making the world an "international cooking pot'."

Spyros Peter Goudas is well on his way to that goal. His empire now extends to 21 major supermarket chains and 3,000 independent grocery stores across Ontario and Quebec, in the aisles of which more than 600 Mr. Goudas products can be found.
Among those products is 9 Ben Mix Symphony, a salad that (according to the website) "depending on the time of day you decide to eat it" will allow one to "achieve sounds, close to rival high notes once emanating from the famous soprano, Maria Callas."

Mr. Goudas may not yet be a household name, but that doesn't mean his large-mindedness is going unnoticed.

Since 2001, the year in which he claimed to move "two million kilograms of rice a week," Spyros Peter Goudas has been featured in many newspapers and profiled on the CBC.

He's particularly proud of making the cover of the Globe and Mail's Report on Business section.

His star is on the rise because somewhere along the way, Mr. Spyros Peter Goudas figured out the secret of celebrity: no matter how big you get, think bigger.

When contacted in regard to an interview for this article, Panos Goudas, the Mr.'s son, PR person and heir apparent, came back with the following reply:

"I asked Mr. Goudas about the interview, and he mentioned that he can only be interested if he is featured on the front cover. Please advise accordingly".



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