Over 115 Years of Fresh Ideas
We started out as a butter-and-egg delivery business more than a century ago. We’ve grown to become the largest family-operated broadline foodservice distributor in North America by upholding the same business approach since 1897—being passionately committed to the people we serve. We believe in the power of good food—to bring people together and make moments special. Every product, every order and every decision we make is inspired by the people on the other side of the plate.
We’ve weathered a lot of change since the beginning, growing and adapting with the industry to institute innovative technologies, and leading the industry into new and more efficient ways of doing business. Amidst all of these changes, our values have remained the same as those of the 23-year-old entrepreneur who started it all: hard work, reliability, and integrity.
The beginning of Gordon Food Service
Isaac Van Westenbrugge, age 23, borrows $300 from his brother to start a butter and egg delivery business. He sold to local grocers in Grand Rapids, MI, by horse and wagon.
Van Westenbrugge & Erb is born
Isaac partners with William Erb to form a general grocery wholesaling business named Van Westenbrugge & Erb.
First motorized delivery truck
Van Westenbrugge & Erb is the first food service company in Grand Rapids to have a motorized delivery truck.
Ben Gordon joins the company
16 year-old Ben Gordon begins working for Issac unloading margarine, candling eggs, bookkeeping, washing windows, and sweeping floors.
The I. Van Westenbrugge store opens for business
Isaac buys out William Erb and opens the I. Van Westenbrugge store in Grand Rapids. The company has been solely a Van Westenbrugge/Gordon family managed, privately-held business since.
Ben Gordon marries Ruth Van Westenbrugge
- Ben and Ruth Van Westenbrugge are married, creating a union that lasts over 51 years and produces the next generation of leadership for the company.
- Ben becomes first assistant to Isaac Van Westenbrugge.
- The company’s food distribution area expands to a 50-mile radius of Grand Rapids.
Company sales growth
Annual sales for the company reach $300,000, with five sales representatives.
The first company celebration is held, a tradition that continues today.
Ben Gordon gains partnership
Ben and Isaac join in a partnership and form The Gordon-Van Cheese Company.
First cold-storage facility
The company’s first large, cold-storage facilities are housed in a building at 250 Michigan Street NE in Grand Rapids.
Frank Gordon joins the company
Frank Gordon leaves his position with A&P Tea Company to join his brother Ben in the family business.
Company renamed Gordon Food Service
Issac retires, and Ben and Frank reorganize and rename the corporation Gordon Food Service.
The company expands its operations to Traverse City, Kalamazoo, and Lansing, MI.
Paul Gordon joins the company
Ben’s eldest son, Paul Gordon, joins the company.
Increased warehouse capacity
The company moves operations into the expanded warehouse at the 250 Michigan Street NE location. The expanded warehouse marks a first by adding 4,000 square feet of low-temperature storage for frozen foods, substantially increasing the company’s capacity to serve restaurants and hotels.
John Gordon joins the company
John Gordon, son of Ben and brother of Paul, joins the company.
Continued sales growth
- Company sales reach an all-time high of $5,000,000.
- The Profit Sharing Plan is initiated, a cornerstone employee benefit.
New warehouses and headquarters
The company moves into a new building on 50th Street SW in Wyoming, MI that includes a 55,000-square-foot warehouse. The site serves as headquarters for the next 50 years.
The third generation of leadership
Paul becomes president and John is named secretary/treasurer.
Two-trailer hookup system
Gordon Food Service initiates the two-trailer hookup system, an industry innovation that enables the food distribution company to cover a wider territory by truck rather than build more distribution centers.
Food Shows begin
Gordon Food Service hosts its Food-A-Rama, its first food show.
Dan Gordon joins the company
- Dan Gordon, eldest son of Paul, joins the company.
- A stacker crane is installed to stack incoming merchandise in the freezer warehouse, one of the first 10 in the operation in the United States.
First "Cash & Carry" store opens
The first "Cash & Carry" store opens in Grand Rapids as a convenient supplement to regular delivery customers when they need extra supplies.
Automated sorting and selection system
The industry’s first automated sorting and shipping system is implemented at the 50th Street warehouse.
Jim Gordon joins the company
Jim Gordon, second son of Paul, starts as a sales representative.
John Gordon, Jr. joins the company
John Gordon, Jr., son of John, begins working for the company.
Paul Gordon instrumental in Markon
Paul helps create a new marketing organization, Markon, Inc. to elevate the quality, consistency, packaging, and marketing of produce to the foodservice industry.
Second warehouse is built
A 270,000-square-foot state-of-the-art warehouse in Brighton, MI, opens and is hailed as a “preview of 21st century foodservice distribution.”
The fourth generation of leadership
Dan replaces his father Paul as president. In 1992, Jim Gordon is named operations manager and in 1993, John Jr. becomes manager of finance.
New store name
Initially called Cash & Carry, the stores were known as Gordon Food Service Customer Service Center Stores for three years before switching to GFS Marketplace.
North American expansion
- The company begins servicing customers in Canada with the purchase of the Ontario and Quebec divisions of Maple Leaf Food Service.
- The Clay Distribution Center is completed in Wyoming, measuring 225,000-square-feet and 95 feet tall.
Company sales reach $1 billion
A single-year record.
Canadian distributors acquired
Gordon Food Service purchases family-owned Canadian foodservice distributors Distal and Finlay-Greenwood.
100 year anniversary
The company celebrates 100 years of service.
Ohio distribution center opens
- The 320,000-sq. ft. Springfield, OH, distribution center opens, creating immediate opportunities in the eastern U.S.
- A new benchmark is achieved: $2 billion in sales.
Southern US expansion
The company acquires Institutional Distributors and begins selling to customers in Kentucky and Tennessee.
Western Canadian expansion
Gordon Food Service extends into western Canada with the purchase of Bridge Brand Food Services and Neptune Food Service.
Acquisitions in Florida and Canada
To serve customers in Florida and eastern Canada, the company acquires Smart and Final's Florida operation and nine stores, Henry Lee Company in Florida, M&S Foodservice in Canada, and opens a new food distribution center in Amherst, NS.
100th GFS Marketplace Store opens
The 100th GFS Marketplace store opens in Middletown, OH.
Shepherdsville and Edmonton food distribution centers open
New distribution centers are built in Shepherdsville, KY, and Edmonton, AB.
Board of Directors meeting
- The Board of Directors gathers in Louisville. Traci Schmidt (left) joined the board in 2003 and Joseph White (fourth from right) and Dave Gray (right) have served since 1988.
- New food distribution centers open in Greenville, SC, Ocala, FL, and Winnipeg, MB.
Paul Gordon passes away
Paul Gordon passes away at the age of 84. His commitment to integrity, and his genuine concern for each employee and their families, established a company culture that defines Gordon Food Service.
Distribution center construction in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin
The Gordon Food Service footprint continues to expand with the construction of food distribution centers in Pottsville, PA and Kenosha, WI.
Continued growth in Florida
Newly acquired food distribution center in Plant City, FL, begins shipping to customers in Central Florida.
Northeast US expansion
- The company broadens its reach into the Northeast by buying Perkins, a leading foodservice distributor located in Taunton, MA.
- The 150th GFS Marketplace store opens in Madison, WI.
Western US expansion
- Gordon Food Service expands west of the Mississippi with the acquisition of Glazier Foods Company, a leading broadline foodservice distributor in Texas.
- The 50th Street freezer distribution center is completed in Wyoming, measuring 100,000-square-feet.
- Gordon Food Service updates the corporate brand to emphasize the Gordon name, which leads with our family and people-focused culture, and changes the name of GFS Marketplace to Gordon Food Service Store.
- A new distribution center opens in Aberdeen, MD, to serve customers in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
Continued growth in new and existing North American markets
New distribution centers open in Douglasville, GA, and Imperial, PA; and a new distribution center opens in Calgary, AB, replacing the previous one.