The Sons of Damour Who Built a Multi-Million Food Empire in Canada

When the third-largest Canadian food retailer seeks to acquire a Lebanese supermarket in a Canadian province, and is willing to pay millions of dollars for it, it tells you only one thing: That Lebanese supermarket is the best and most successful in the province, and not just as an ethnic supermarket. That is how Marché Adonis in Montreal, Canada, stands out to-date, mighty at the top-level it has reached, serving all Canadians and emigrants across Quebec and all the way to the province of Ontario.

However, Marché Adonis was not always so mighty. It started as a very small 93 m2 food store at a corner of a street in Montreal. That was in 1979, three years after Lebanese brothers Elie and Jamil Cheaib arrived in Montreal from Lebanon with their friend Georges Ghrayeb.

Sons of the Lebanese coastal town of Damour, the Cheaib brothers and their friend George Ghrayeb lived their first years in Montreal in a very small apartment, barely furnished with three mattresses, a table, and a fridge. 

They opened their small store under the apartment, providing Lebanese ingredients to the Lebanese community and the Middle-Easterns.  Entrepreneurs at heart and with a sharp mind for business, they started developing the idea of introducing Lebanese culture to the new world and trading Lebanese food in Canada.

They worked tirelessly, 7 days a week, abstaining from distraction, and renaming their small store: ADONIS.

Their vision would come to gradually materialize, and quicker than expected. By 1984, the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean communities increased exponentially in Montreal, and the three partners decided to expand in order to meet the demands of their increasing regular customers. They expanded by enlarging the warehouse, turning the store into a space of 929 m2.

In no time, the expansion of their store became synonymous with success. The three partners thought even bigger and went for a more strategic location and a much larger store to service even larger areas.

Hence, Marché Adonis on Boulevard l’Acadie was born, a central supermarket of 1115 m2 that they soon expanded to 1858 m2 in 1991. The same year, they opened a new branch of about 558 m2 in the district of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Montreal.

Their success led the team in 2003 to close down their central store on Boulevard l’Acadie and launch two much bigger stores, both also on strategic locations: on Sauvé Street and in the West Island of Montreal. By then, when Montrealers would talk about Marché Adonis, it is a highly appealing, full-service mega supermarket they would be speaking of.

In fact, Marché Adonis became a massive provider of quality food, fresh fruits and vegetables, delicious Lebanese cuisine ready-to-eat from their counters -including shawarma, shish-taouk, and falafel-, fresh Lebanese bread, our known assortment of desserts, kaak and nuts, and a huge variety of charcuterie, and fresh cheeses – including our Jebneh Baladi, Haloum, Mjadleh, and Ashkawan, and let us not miss the shankleesh and fresh Labneh.

In addition to their meat, poultry, and fish counters, their shelves are filled with products carrying the labels of Lebanese importers from our homeland: Olives, extra-virgin olive oil, tahini, debs (molasses), rose water, halewe, dry zaatar mix, canned foods, and you name it. Lebanese labels are there in abundance to speak of Lebanon in Montreal.

From freshly baked take-away manou’sh, lahem aajeen, and fatayer, to packed ready-made frozen kibbe, waraq enab, and shish barak, and a variety of Lebanese plats du jour, Marché Adonis has it all.

Grosso modo, stepping inside an Adonis supermarket in Montreal is like entering a Lebanese food embassy. The locals love it and not only the Lebanese who you would see gathering with bright faces around the seasonal Lebanese fruits that aren’t available in other supermarkets in the country, like Akadeni, Loz Akhdar, Qashta Fruits, Foul Akhdar, and so on.

So it is no wonder that more stores went on popping up across the Great Island of Montreal: at Place-Vertu in Ville Saint-Laurent, on the most popular Sainte Catherine Street in Downtown Montreal, on Peel Street in the highly developing Griffintown, and on Boulevard des Roseraies in Anjou, East Montreal. By then, Marché Adonis has long started including products from Mediterranean countries, not only Lebanon.

Crossing the borders of Montreal, Marché Adonis expanded further to Laval in the North Shore with two branches and also in South Shore. When the famous Target retailer closed down in the Gatineau region, at the edge of the Canadian capital of Ottawa, the three partners did not hesitate. They took the massive store and opened another Adonis branch.  

With such massive success, Marché Adonis became classified as “One of Quebec’s biggest ethnic food retailers specializing in Mediterranean food,” employing thousands of employees, and recording by 2011 CAD$73 million in sales.

By then, Metro Inc, which is the third-largest Canadian food retailer with 365 locations between Quebec and Ontario, approached the Cheaib brothers and their partner Ghrayeb with a proposal of acquisition.

After negotiations, it was finally decided between both parties on an acquisition of 55.5% of Marché Adonis and its distributor of Phoenicia products in favor of Metro Inc. at a cost of CAD$153.8 million.

The agreement signed on October 26, 2011, favored the three Lebanese partners with 44.5% ownership and sole management of the entire business.

At the announcement of the signed deal, Eric La Flèche, President and CEO of Metro Inc., stated the following to the press:

“We are pleased to partner with the founders of Marché Adonis, entrepreneurs who have developed a unique food concept in Canada that has been highly regarded by consumers and has made the company famous for more than 30 years. This partnership will enable us to better respond to the needs of different cultural communities and increase our market share in the growing ethnic food sector.”

But this isn’t the end of it!

From there, Marché Adonis, under the management of the Lebanese partners, kept expanding farther and, this time, crossing the province of Quebec to Ontario. The group opened in 2013 their first Ontarian store in the city of Mississauga followed by another one in Scarborough, and just recently, in 2019, a second Marché Adonis in Mississauga.

The remarkable success of these Lebanese entrepreneurs with their Marché Adonis in such a demanding market surprised an entire industry. Extremely popular in all its locations for the quality of products and services, Marché Adonis has done more than gaining notoriety and wealth to its owners.

They brought into Canada a large part of Lebanon’s culture and introduced it to the Canadians and to the various communities and subcultures of Canada. And they all love it!

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