David Ferraro’s father, two aunts and grandmother arrived in North America in the 1930s when his dad was just four years old. They came from Grimaldi, Italy at a time when many people were moving due to work shortages. Knowing the challenges his own family faced with immigration, helping newcomers to Canada comes from a very special place in David’s heart.
“I couldn’t imagine arriving in a new country with three kids and not speaking the language,” says David. “My grandmother landed in New York in 1935 and had a sign on her chest that said Montreal and another sign that said Nelson because those were the main train stations. She got to Nelson by pointing at her signs.”
During their first few years in Canada, they worked hard to open a successful grocery store called Ferraro and Son. When his dad got older, they opened up 21 SuperValue stores in Edmonton, Lethbridge, Calgary and the Kootenays. Eventually, Ferraro Foods was born and is the family’s sole focus. They have a location in Trail and another in Rossland and the store has been family-owned and operated since its humble beginnings in 1943!
“We’re an old-fashioned grocery store with a new, healthy and international flair,” says David, who runs the stores with his four siblings. The iconic store offers produce, meats, and international cuisine, as well as homemade sausage, bread, antipasti, and other goods from passed-down family recipes. Additionally, they’re doing wonders for giving immigrants fresh starts in Canada through the West Kootenay Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program.
When essential employees started retiring from Ferraro Foods shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic, David and his family were left struggling with their beloved business. “No one was bringing in resumes, and we just couldn’t get caught up,” says David. “I said to my siblings, we have to do something. We were having a hard time operating our kitchens that produce all our deli meats and baked goods. We had to stop taking special orders and things like that, and that’s just not us.”
David started looking into the prospect of finding staff internationally, but the process seemed challenging. “It was a lot of work, and I didn’t know if I could do it,” he says. He also noticed it could be a costly and slow process for prospective immigrants. “Some people who went through various other immigration pathways spent large amounts of money on legal fees and the process could take them longer than 18 months.
When David discovered the ease of RNIP, he quickly started collaborating with his valued international staff to see whose friends and family may want to make the permanent move. Ferraro Foods is now in the process of helping six immigrants make Canada their permanent home, and have helped many more. David tells each and everyone of them, he will personally help them with their paperwork anytime, anywhere.
“These are people who really want to work and get ahead,” says David’s oldest sister, Kim McMartin.
David adds, “They want to be part of our community and really be a part of where they work and who they work for, and I want to do everything I can to help them. It’s so satisfying because I feel like I’m paying it forward. They remind me of the Italians, my family, of the 30s and 40s.”
Ferraro Foods is one of the many employers working to help RNIP applicants move to the West Kootenay.