Nunzio Tumino, founder of Aurora Importing, jokes that it was a mistake that got him into the business. A new immigrant from Sicily, Nunzio and his wife Maria used the little money they had to open a grocery store in Toronto’s west end. To keep it afloat, Nunzio worked three jobs while Maria put in long hours at the store. At night, they squeezed in English classes.
On his trips back to Italy, Nunzio was often asked by his immigrant customers to bring back specialty foods they desperately missed. A fruit wholesaler once asked Nunzio to ship 400 bags of Italian chestnuts back to Toronto. When bad weather delayed the delivery, the wholesaler backed out and Nunzio was stuck filling every corner of his house with bags of chestnuts! He started making calls to local stores. Luckily, the holiday season was approaching and no one could resist the quality product. Nunzio quickly sold all the chestnuts and was able to turn a disaster into a lucrative opportunity.
It was a mistake that inspired Nunzio to start a food importing business that would share the best Italian products with Canadians.
Nunzio moved the supermarket to a bigger space in the 1960s. His growing family lived above the store, while his imported goods were stored in the basement. Nunzio named the wholesale business after the aurora borealis, to mark the dawn of his new endeavor.
Eventually, Nunzio stepped away from his supermarket to devote himself to building one of the first major importing companies in Canada. The business moved to progressively larger warehouses, until settling in its current home with facilities both in Mississauga and Montreal.
Aurora now has a line of over 4,000 products including oils, pasta, tomatoes, coffee and coffee machines, condiments, soup, risotto, and confectionery. Despite this growth, Aurora’s philosophy remains rooted in quality. With its own labels–Aurora and Allessia–and those of its partners like Perugina Baci chocolates, Loacker wafers, Ricossa pasta and Bialetti, Aurora has maintained its reputation for top quality products.
Well into his eighties, Nunzio is semi-retired but is often around the office providing his expertise. Tony Morello was named president in 2014, bringing decades of experience as a retail executive. Tony’s vision goes beyond putting product on shelves, by providing retailers with sales solutions and support.
Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2015, Aurora’s presence continues to grow with plans to expand to Western Canada, the U.S. and into drug, mass and club stores.