Guyana-born businessman Lionel M. Bedessee who founded Bedessee Imports Limited of Toronto, died on March 11 last after a lengthy illness. He was 83..
His company which is a major supplier of Caribbean food products, was founded in 1977 when there were few West Indian stores in the city.
With the growth and expansion of his Toronto operation, distribution centres were established in six cities in the United States – New York, Chicago, Maryland, Boston, Connecticut, Orlando and Miami- as well as in Montreal and Vancouver.
Bedessee started out in business in his homeland back in the early 1950s,travelling through the Corentyne on a bicycle, selling products such as rubber balls, twine, balloons, and cricket balls.
His business grew rapidly and he soon established a wholesale and a full sports department with a wide range of products, including sewing machines, kitchen chairs and linoleum carpets and sporting gear.
In 1971, he migrated to Canada with members of his family and noticed that there were few Caribbean products on the shelves of city stores. He immediately realized that there was a business opportunity to fill the need for ” items from back home,” including “ethnic foods,” and became one of the pioneers of the Caribbean food business in Canada.
He was the first Canadian importer of Guyanese seafoods such as gilleybacker, grey snapper and buck crabs.
He leaves his wife, Evelyn, his children, Pamela, Rose, Verman, Ravi, Raymam, Chubb and Invor and 12 grandchildren.