Town & Country Foods may be modestly sized compared to some foodservice companies, but it has a guarantee of quality that even giants like Sysco can’t match, owner Janet Lapin says. “We’re USDA inspected every day,” she says. “That’s a little thing we have that no one else has.”
Based in Greene, Maine, the company distributes “anything that a restaurant would use,” she says, noting that Town & Country specializes in fresh and frozen foods and cleaning supplies. Lapin’s late husband, David Bubier, founded the company 40 years ago, after working in his brother’s abattoir.
There, “He learned to cut meat,” Lapin recalls. She notes that Bubier later decided to go into business on his own. ”A year after we got married, he started a small meat business, Town & Country Meat.”
Eventually, the company adopted the Town & Country Foods name to encompass everything the company had to offer, Lapin recalls. Today, her son, General Manager Mark Bubier, joins her in the firm.
The family involvement adds a personal touch to the company’s business. “He cares,” she says, noting that Town & Country will eventually be his livelihood. “It makes a huge difference and we get along really well.”
In addition, Town & Country focuses on providing its customers with fresh foods, Lapin says. For instance, the company cuts its own steaks and makes its own salads, including chicken and lobster salads.
“It is fresh every day when we deliver,” she says, adding that Town & Country also specializes in grinding multiple grades of hamburger.
“We try to buy good quality beef. We buy it out west and have it shipped directly to us and I think our customers appreciate that.”
Before working part time at Town & Country with her husband, Lapin owned her own beauty shop. After he opened the company, Lapin took over the bookkeeping duties.
After her husband died, Lapin closed her shop and took full control of it. “I’m just thrilled that my son finally graduated from college,” she says. “The only thing he doesn’t know how to do is cut meat. If it weren’t for my son, I would have sold the business.”
But Lapin also praises other people at the firm. She notes that adds that other key people include office managers Candy Campbell and Sue Rioux, and Kelly Ouellette, who runs Lapin’s retail store and is familiar with many facets of the business.
Since joining the company at the age of 18, Ouellette has made salads, worked in the office, completed phone sales and made deliveries, which she continues to do, as needed.
Lapin also praises meat cutters Jeff Green and Earle Bubier. “I don’t think I could run the business without [them],” Lapin says.
Lapin notes that both men are the only qualified meat cutters at the company. Green and Bubier began working at Town & Country while they still were in high school and were taught by Lapin’s husband.
Aiming to Compete
After the economic downturn, Town & Country’s sales took a hit, Lapin says. “Everybody’s sales are down in our area,” she says, noting that Sysco has let go of most, or possibly all, of its inside sales people.
She adds that Town & Country has made staff cuts of its own. However, recently, Lapin says that the company’s business has improved dramatically and it is outperforming last year’s sales on most days.
“I have an aggressive sales force that goes out and does the best they can in this economy,” Lapin says.
“Nowadays, you have to be more competitive,” she adds.