Page 1


2

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

3


4

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

CONTENTS

LEGACY ENSURED Legacy Ensured Commemorative Magazine Celebrating the outstanding life and times of Lionel Moona Bedessee 11 Nov. 1933 – 11 Mar. 2017

Founder Bedessee Imports Ltd. May 1977 Bedessee Family Contributors: Spouse - Evelyn Children - Pamela, Rose, Verman, Ravi, Rayman, Chubb, Invor Grandchildren - Andrew, Bradley, Amanda, Christopher, Ariana, Brandon, Nicholas, Elliot, Sean, Marcus, Melissa, Jenna Editor: Tony McWatt Graphic Design: Mydsgn.ca Produced by TeeMac Publishing

Publisher Tony McWatt Published By TeeMac Publishing on behalf of The Bedessee Family & Bedessee Imports Ltd.

6 A Dynasty Created 10 LMB The Bicycle Businessman, A Friend’s Recollection 14 Marriage & Fatherhood 18 Memories Are Made Of These 23 The Rose Of His Life 24 Birth Of A Legacy 26 Cricket Hall Of Fame Induction 28 US Expansion, Global Experience 31 Granddaughters’ Reflections 34 A Legacy Ensured 38 Words Of Wisdom Remembered I am comforted by the knowledge that my Dad is surely now in heaven, watching over all of us. God needed a Special Angel and he was the one chosen. There was no need for me to say goodbye as I will see him again later when our souls meet. One day we will all be together again. Until then I love you Daddy.You will always and forever be in my heart and I will never forget you. Thank you for all that you have ever done for me in my life and for everything you did for Ariana and Tony as well. “Death leaves a heartache, no one can heal. Love leaves a memory, no one can steal!” I Love you Daddy and will miss you forever! Rose Bedessee


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

“The dates on a tombstone signify a person’s lifetime, their years lived from birth to death. According to the poet Linda Ellis however, what matters most is the dash between those years. So when your eulogy is being read with your life’s actions to rehash.. would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent YOUR dash?”

As its Publisher in developing this Commemorative Magazine, the foregoing extract from Linda Ellis’ famous poem The Dash, came to mind as being most appropriate in regard to the life and times of Lionel M Bedessee. Having sired seven children: 2 daughters Pamela & Rose, followed by five sons: Verman, Ravi, Rayman, Chubb, Invor, LMB as he was often fondly called certainly had a full fatherly life. He was also a very proud grandfather of 12: Andrew, Bradley, Amanda, Christopher, Ariana, Brandon, Nicholas, Elliot, Sean, Marcus, Melissa, Jenna. As a true Scorpio, the Zodiac sign under which his November 11, 1933 birth date fell, LMB displayed all the sign’s supposedly typical traits: he was dead serious about his life’s mission; always wanted to be in ultimate control of his own destiny; constantly promoted his own agenda and was always seeking to move forward towards the achievement of his life goals! Scorpios are also known for working as hard as they can so that they can possibly sit back one day and enjoy all that they achieved. In those terms LMB was perhaps the consummate Scorpio. His dad Ramnauth had been a businessman himself so it was perhaps natural for Lionel to have initially followed in his father’s footsteps. His first business venture was the importation of cricket gears for which he quickly became very famous in Guyana, during the fifties to early seventies before he and his family departed for Canada. He continued that business tradition with the 1977 opening of his very first Bedessee Imports Ltd. store on Queen Street, Toronto. His father having been a rice farmer, it was perhaps no big surprise that LMB would also become a very keen and successful gardener. For well over twenty years, he spent a good part of his weekends, early mornings and evenings tending to his Stouffville home garden. He planted so that he could reap buckets of tomatoes, onions, potatoes, squash, rhubarbs, pears, plums and apples, the greater majority of which he gleefully distributed to his neighbours, friends, employees and non-resident family members. Having lived into his eighties, before the onset of the illness that would eventually result in his untimely passing, LMB was active and ever gratefully involved in all that he loved to do. In so doing he ensured that his dash was indeed representative of years very well spent in the creation of a legacy that has now been ensured!

5


6

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

A Dynasty Created By Pamela Bedessee

Good, Good! Evelyn Bedessee at the Bedessee Imports’ New York Office LMB Wall Memorial.

Our purpose here is to celebrate the life and Immortality of a husband, father, grandfather, cousin, uncle, and friend Mr. Lionel Moona Bedessee, the founder and President of Bedessee Imports Ltd . He really lived and embraced the Hindu philosophy of “ Vasudeva Kutum-bakam” which means “the world is ONE FAMILY”.He was a humble, kind-hearted, caring and generous man. In pursuit of our celebration we would like to take you back in time of his life’s journey to reflect on all he has done and the people he impacted. Lionel Moona Bedessee (LMB) was born on November 11th, 1933, in

Port Mourant, Corentyne, Berbice, Guyana. He was the 4th child of the late Ramnauth and Mary Ramkumarie Bedessee. The legacy of Lionel Bedessee lives through his wife Evelyn, children, Pamela, Rose, Verman, Ravi, Rayman, Chubb and Invor. LMB is survived by 12 grandchildren, Bradley, Brandon, Ariana, Andrew, Amanda, Chris, Sean, Lisa, Elliot, Jenna, Nick and Mark as well as his siblings: Doris, Jean, Radha, Manohar and White. He was predeceased by two brothers (Dr) Manwel, and Morton and one sister Floris.


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

Growing up Lionel Bedessee attended the Courantyne Anglican High School up to the 8th Grade. He grew up working in the family business. He left school to work in the family’s rice fields and store in order to support his other siblings. Throughout all that, he still managed to do so much more. At the age of 20, he made a decision to venture out on his own and start a business. He began selling small household items such as twine, balloons, and rubber bands. After examining the market, he realized that there was a lack of supply of cricket gears and so he began to sell these products also to others within the community. This was the stepping stone for his future business ventures.

course in Appliance and Refrigeration at Conestoga College at the age of 42. Some of his odd jobs included painting the GM factory in Woodstock and making rubber shoes for Kaufman. He even worked at a Twine Factory. At his core though he always wanted to be an employer and in charge of his own business. Being simply a company employee was just not to his liking.

“he realized that there was a lack of supply of cricket gears and so he began to sell these products “

In the 1950s, Lionel was determined to get his business off the ground. He would ride his bike to sell many goods throughout Guyana’s Corentyne Region. One of the stops he would often make was at the Ganga Persaud Family Store. It was there that he would meet his future wife, Evelyn. On April 24th, 1960 Lionel aged 27 and Evelyn 19 were married, vowing to spend the rest of their lives together. Evelyn became his wife, partner, friend, life companion and the mother of his seven children for almost 57 years. Together they raised and built a successful family business. After the birth of their 7th child, LMB decided to embark on a new journey so he moved to Canada with the 4 eldest children to be of assistance to his older brother, Dr. Manwel Bedessee. Coming to Canada, was challenging for LMB as there were many adjustments that had to be made with respect to climate, culture and business. Despite settling in within Canada, LMB was not entirely satisfied. He tried many different jobs and took a

7

Proud Dad, Loving Daughter.


8

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

In 1974, Evelyn and the youngest 3 children moved from Guyana to Canada to reunite with LMB and the family in Waterloo, Ontario. In 1977, the entire family moved from Waterloo and became resident in Toronto, where LMB restarted his entrepreneurial journey. He rented a small retail store on Queen St, West, and that was the beginning of the business operations.

children began to get older, the family became completely dedicated and involved in the process of operating the business’day to day activities. The business began growing so rapidly that by the early 80’s they’d need to relocate to a larger location. The business was thus moved from its original 1429 Queen Street location to a larger facility at 1373 Queen St. in Toronto. By this time, the company had become incorporated. The family also began making regular commutes to New York to trade various items, such as sporting goods including cricket gears. At that point in time, Bedessee Imports was historically considered to be one of the pioneers for importing West Indian Foods and Spices to North America. Many of us, can remember the times when products were scarce and limited. LMB paved the way to make products such as spices become easily accessible to those who desire them.

While running the retail store, LMB was attentive to the requests of his customers. He realized that his customers needed products that were unavailable in Canada. So, being the determined individual he was, he sought out and started exploring more business opportunities within the import and export industry to accommodate the needs of his customers.

In 1984, Bedessee closed its retail operations and opened up their strictly wholesale and manufacturing only operations in Scarborough, Ontario. LMB was constantly looking for ways to add innovative technology to his business. He successfully did just that by designing a state of the art chowmein factory, which is now still operational at Bedessee Imports’ Scarborough headquarters.

LMB travelled to numerous countries worldwide in search of wellknown Guyanese brands. Some of the countries, at the time, were considered unsafe for travelers but that did not stop LMB, as determined as he was to acquire his customers’ requested goods and supplies.

LMB’s creation, Bedessee Imports has since flourished to now encompass operations in several cities including Toronto, New York, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Kingston, Jamaica. Throughout this entire forty-year period, LMB maintained a simple humble lifestyle.

LMB’s good insight permitted his business in the import and export industry to grow exponentially. As the


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

He had the opportunity to live a life of luxury and could have dined at will at expensive restaurants. He preferred instead to enjoy his own self made home-cooked meals. LMB loved cooking and serving the people of his community. He regularly held pooja ceremonies which brought his family and friends together. LMB was known to welcome everyone with open arms and treated everybody like a family member. LMB was well respected and loved in many communities throughout the world. He always turned down awards that Associations attempted to present to him. He never wanted to be in the spotlight. For example, he was inducted into the Cricket Hall of Fame and he didn’t want to give a speech which was customary, so his grandson Elliot, stepped up to the pitch and gave the acceptance speech on his behalf. LMB’s determination to get what he wanted was insurmountable. What he cherished most was to raise a good, hard-working family which would serve as an example to the rest of society. Aside from business and family, LMB’s hobbies included playing and listening to music. He played the mandolin, accordion, harmonium, dentil and maracas. He was also a movie and tv fanatic. Old black and

9

white Indian movies, James Bond and Dallas were among his many favorites. He was a great dancer and absolutely loved gardening. He hosted many parties and poojas over the years, for the simple purpose of bring his family and friends together. We will always cherish and remember his loving eyes, sweet smile, soft spoken nature and all of his memories. The legacies that he left us to remember are of his love for God, his dedication to his family and to the communities that he’s affected. LMB would want us to remember to serve humbly with love for all. In his words, ‘the world is ONE FAMILY.’ We would like to thank our families, friends, employees, customers and suppliers for your amazing support over the last 40 years and for your wonderfully supportive kindness during the loss of our Dad. Our dad was always committed to providing our community with the best quality products. As a family owned Company we will strive to continue to do so to the best of our abilities and in a manner that will be most beneficial to the communities we gratefully serve. Once again our deepest thanks and appreciation for your continued support.


10

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

LMB The Bicycle Businessman

A Friend’s Recollection!

Now in his eighties, long since retired and living comfortably in Florida, the US State that has been his adopted home since the late sixties, Partab Singh has a lot of time on his hands these days. Time which he often spends reminiscing about cherished lifelong friendships that were developed and maintained over the years. None more so than that which he’d shared with Lionel Bedessee. As kids, Partab Singh and Lionel Bedessee grew up as neighbours in #59 Village Courantyne. In fact their respective houses were only a few hundred yards away from each other. Partab remembers spending his days as a kid, watching his elder brother Phundar and Lionel working together on the rice farm that was owned by Ramnauth Bedessee, Lionel’s dad, a short, fair skinned man. The senior Bedessee’s family also lived in #59 Village. One of his brothers was also a rice farmer, while another was the village painter. The village was relatively small back then, comprised of only a few dozen family homes. Evelyn, whom Lionel would later marry, was also from the village. As owners of a taxi car service, her family was part of the village’s business core. There were no wells back then, so the village’s water was supplied from rain capturing vats. The rainwater that was captured and stored in the vats was then used for everything, including showering.


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

A 1950 Humber Raleigh Bicycle, similar to one LMB used.

“He grew up hard!� He was constantly working, if not in the fields, then as a Bicycle Businessman, delivering ordered groceries to homes within the village and its surrounding areas.

11


12

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

Partab’s recollection of Lionel’s childhood was that “he grew up hard!” He was constantly working, when not in the fields, then as a Bicycle Businessman, delivering ordered groceries to homes within the village and its surrounding areas. Lionel had attended both Courantyne Primary and Secondary schools. But by the time he was 15 his formal education had been forsaken in favour of his duties to the family’s rice farm and grocery store. Partab’s own Dad owned and managed both a fish and fruit farm and it was he who supplied the young Lionel and Phundar with the necessary ingredients for their every day farm field meals. That was also very likely the humble beginnings of Lionel’s eventual legendary cooking skills. Partab says that the days his brother and Lionel spent in the rice fields were long and hard. Often beginning at sunrise and not ending until well after sunset. Everything was done either by hand or by cow drawn plow. The reaping was done with hand held grass knives and the same cow that pulled the plow was then called to action to transport the paddy by cart to the mill. Because they worked together in the fields and were almost the same age, Phundar and Lionel were initially much closer as friends than Partab who was a little younger. The village having been so small however, all of its inhabitant kids were harmoniously close with each other. The entire Bedessee family he remembers as being nice, humble people, who were very well liked within the village and never had issues or problems with anyone. As a handsome young man, teenaged Lionel was quite a hit among the village’s lasses, especially those who frequented his family’s store. He and Evelyn were however, quickly matched to be wed by their respective sets of parents, who were brought up in the strictest of Hindu traditions.

a handsome young man Lionel in his teenaged days was quite a hit among the village’s lasses, especially those who frequented his family’s store. He and Evelyn were however quickly matched to be wed


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

13

All of the Bedessee kids helped out in the family store. Lionel was the fourth child of nine born to his parents, Ramnauth Bedessee and his wife, Mary Ramkumari. Lionel’s eldest brother, Manwel, however left fairly early to go to England to study, and would eventually become a Doctor. Lionel and Evelyn would also in time leave for Canada, but not before all of their seven kids had been born, right there in #59 Village. They were all mid wife assisted home births, as the nearest hospital was at Skeldon, some six miles away. By then Lionel had also branched off into his own business, selling cricket gears, imported from England, to all the sports enthusiasts throughout the Courantyne and its surrounding areas.

Lifelong friends Partab & LMB.

Partab had left Guyana during the late sixties for the US, years before Lionel made the similar trek to Canada. Living so far apart and respectively busy trying to establish footholds for themselves and their families in their new home countries, they’d initially lost contact with each other. Thanks largely to Lionel’s determination to re-establish contact with as many of his childhood friends, they later reconnected. After which Lionel became a most welcome visitor to Partab’s home any and every time he visited Florida. They would spend simple enjoyable times together, saying prayers, eating, drinking and recalling their boyhood days.


14

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

LMB Marriage & Fatherhood

Strong Family Values & Hard Work! Lionel Bedessee was only 26 years old when he met Evelyn Ganga Persaud, who at the time was still a teenager, aged 19. Two weeks later, in an April 24, 1960 double wedding, Lionel and Evelyn joined her sister Ivy and her soon-to-be husband under a heavily decorated mandap to seal their lifelong commitment to each other. Evelyn Bedessee often laughs when she remembers her joyous wedding day” We were getting totally confused about who should be doing what during the rituals!” Lifelong it was indeed as the couple remained happily married and devoted to each other until Lionel’s March 2017 passing. 57 solid years of marriage and unselfish devotion. Much more than just a successful marriage it was also the rock solid foundation upon which the Bedessee Imports businesses in Toronto, New York and Florida were built.

shop in the Kiltearn Village. According to Pamela, their eldest daughter, their business foresight was even reflected in the home having been built with the store in mind! LM Bedessee Sports and Gears very quickly became highly popular as a provider of cricket products, in a country that was at the time, fanatical about the sport. From the very start therefore, Lionel demonstrated a penchant for recognizing a need that was widespread and for servicing it with products that were in demand. It was a formula that he would repeat with even greater success when he migrated to Canada.

Having initially worked for his father, Lionel branched off on his own to start LM Bedessee Sports and Gears with his acquired wife, Before then, while managing the in the “bottom house” of their new “bottom house business,” the home. Evelyn had also come from couple had seven children. a business background, as her parents had owned a successful


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

Two daughters, Pamela and Rose were soon followed by five sons, Verman, Ravi, Rayman, Chub and Invor. By 1971, reportedly reluctantly, Lionel, Evelyn and their seven children had migrated to Canada under the direction of Lionel’s brother Dr Manwel Bedessee, a prominent doctor in Kitchener, Waterloo. All nine of them initially lived in a three-bedroom home. After taking a number of odd jobs, Lionel also found it difficult to adjust to working for others. He enrolled in some courses in appliances, electronics and refrigeration, at the City Of Kitchener’s Conestoga College. He knew however, that he could achieve more.

15

Toronto store at 1429 Queen Street West. Bannered as Bedessee Imports the store was involved in both wholesaling and retailing. This all happened within one year after he’d initially established the grassroots basement business. From that point onward the lives of the Bedessee children changed completely. “None of us did anything other than work, recalls Pamela as she remembers having to wake up at 5:00 am to pick up fresh goods from the Ontario Food

Becoming resourceful he wrote letters to his contacts back home in Guyana to inquire as to whether it would be possible to to import Guyanese products to Canada. He’d already developed the requisite expertise in importing and exporting during his cricket business days. The next logical step was for him to start searching within Toronto for West Indian products that he could sell to the handful of Kitchener based Lionel and Evelyn recognized the Guyanese families, importance of maintaining their from the basement of his family’s threeHindu religion bedroom home, where they lived along with his sister Doris and brother Whyte. Terminal on Queen’s Quay, before heading back to the store, to clean By 1977 Lionel’s vision, and package food items for sale resourcefulness and persistence each day. had resulted in his acquired ownership of the family’s first


16

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

As parents, Lionel and Evelyn were both very conservative. So while the Bedessee children may have had relatively few opportunities to build a social life, they nevertheless benefited from being part of a very close-knit family. “Our Dad was really funny, but mostly with other people!” says Rayman.

Day, as well as the opening of their larger warehouse on Queen Street. Says Rayman, “it was full every night with almost 200 people attending each evening during the week and well over 600 on the weekends. It was fairly hard to put together back then because Toronto’s Guyanese population was relatively small at the time!” Evelyn and Lionel continued to work hard while watching their business grow. Pamela says that growing up, all the boys knew that Lionel expected them to one-day take over the business from him. Perhaps as his first born, Lionel however never made her feel the same pressure, allowing her the freedom to pursue a post-secondary degree at McMaster University.

During his later years at the Company’s Scarborough warehouse LMB developed a reputation for greeting customers daily with very funny anecdotes and stories about Guyana. Much like the sign he had mounted on the wall for all his customers to see “If you have nothing to do, don’t do it here!” Despite their busy business life, Lionel and Evelyn recognized the importance of maintaining their Hindu religion and culture. In May 1980, they held a seven-day yajna, which was opened to the public as a joint celebration of Mother’s

Meanwhile her younger brothers were all growing up and doing exactly what their father had hoped. Verman, Ravi and Chubb willingly started up Bedessee Imports branches in Florida and New York, while Rayman and Invor continued to manage the Canadian business which by then had initially moved to the Midland Avenue, Scarborough warehouse location, prior to the eventual move to the current Queen’s Court facility. During the Company’s Midland Avenue, Scarborough warehouse days, Evelyn worked mostly in manufacturing and production. Lionel meanwhile kept true to his love for the Company’s sporting goods, while keeping a keen eye on the overall operations.


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

As a couple they didn’t talk much during the average day, partly because according to Pamela “they never really needed to, their understanding of each other was so great that they would typically finish each other’s sentences!

17

his legacy would be safe in the hands of his seven loving, well grounded children, and perhaps even beyond them to some of his grandchildren also!

That was one of the very many qualities Pamela admired most about her parent’s enduring 57-year marriage. She also values her parents having taught her and all her siblings the importance of helping someone who is in need without asking any questions. For the last decade and a half of their marriage, Lionel and Evelyn lived in the family’s tenbedroom Stoufville mansion, spending joyous weekends with their 12 grandchildren. While Lionel tendered to his garden that was laced with squash, pumpkin, tomato and pepper plants, Evelyn often visited her sister to spend time with her side of the family. They loved to cook at home and much preferred doing so than going out for dinners. In his eighty third year, before the onset of the illness that would eventually claim his life Lionel Bedessee and his loving wife Evelyn had come full circle. He would still get up at 7:00 am each morning and drive down to Scarborough to open the warehouse. As he did so however, it must have been with an immense source of pride, knowing as he did that

“Our Dad was really funny, but mostly with other people!”


18

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

“their understanding of each other was so great that they would typically finish each other’s sentences!


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

19


20

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

21


22

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

23

LMB: The Rose Of His Life

A Daughter’s Reflection! As the second child of Lionel and Evelyn Bedessee, I now miss my Daddy very much, especially the calls he made to my home, every night, sometimes more than once. He would say, What’s up? What did you cook and after I’d answered his response would always be “Good, Good!” Then there would be the inevitable “Where’s Tony?” enquiry on the whereabouts of my husband. I will miss my Dad coming to my home, without fail, every time he came to New York, because he insisted on staying only with me. I would wake up to find him watching his favorite James Bond movie or a re-run of Sanford and Son. He absolutely loved Fred Sanford and must have identified with him in some way. Invariably he would ask me to make him his favorite cup of coffee, Tasters Choice with honey wheat. This he would have with either some whole wheat toast or his much-favored corn bread. Growing up my Dad had instilled in all of us the principles of working hard for what you want, of always being honest, kind, caring, respectful, humble and above all else, loving to everyone. He would constantly remind us to always treat others like family and to have lots of food and

drinks for everyone. He also taught us to pray to Lord Hanuman in the belief that anything you ask of him would be received. Growing up I saw him make lists for everything he did. He wrote everything down and suggested we do the same. I must have listened to his advice for anyone who knows me will attest that in my house there are signs for everything. There are in my office also and whenever there’s a party I am the one that’s called on to make the labels. The most important lesson my Dad ever gave us was to save, save and save some more. Don’t waste your money, he’d constantly say. He truly taught me the value of a dollar and his advice didn’t stop with me. He was always telling my daughter not to spend her money wildly and to not follow others in buying something simply because it was popular and every one else had it. I am now and will always be ever grateful that we heeded his advice. What I will now miss most is coming to Canada and not having my Dad there to greet me. Waiting for me to eat his delicious cooked foods and of course take a drink with him and my Mum. What I wouldn’t give to hear him say again “Leh we knack a drink!”


24

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

Birth of A

LEGACY

By 1971, reportedly reluctantly, his cricket business days. The next Lionel, Evelyn and their seven logical step was for him to start children migrated to Canada searching within Toronto for West under the direction of Lionel’s Indian products that brother Dr Manwel Bedessee, he could sell to the handful a prominent doctor in Kitchener, Waterloo. All nine of them initially lived “ when it was time to do a in a three bedroom home. pooja, there was nothing Says Pamela, “it was hard available to buy to do it. There adjusting because we had nobody to guide us and it were no West Indian stores. was a foreign land, people That’s what motivated my Dad and weather!” Rayman, the couple’s fourth to find a way “to bring home child, also recalls that back back to a foreign land!” then “when it was time to do a pooja, there was nothing available to buy to do it. There of Kitchener based Guyanese were no West Indian stores. That’s families from the basement of his what motivated my Dad to find family’s threea way “to bring home back to a bedroom home. foreign land!” By 1977 Lionel’s vision, After taking a number of odd resourcefulness and persistence jobs Lionel also found it difficult had resulted in his acquired to adjust to working for others. ownership of the family’s first He enrolled in some courses Toronto store at 1429 Queen in appliances, electronics and Street West. Bannered as refrigeration, at the City Of Bedessee Imports the store was Kitchener’s Conastoga College. involved in both wholesaling He knew however that he and retailing. “It was the only could achieve more. Becoming real Guyanese Store. There were resourceful he wrote letters to Indian stores and those that his contacts back home in Guyana were Jamaican, but none that to inquire as to whether it would were authentically Guyanese,” be possible to import Guyanese says Rayman. This all happened products to Canada. He’d already within one year after he’d initially developed the requisite expertise established the grassroots in importing and exporting during basement business.


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

25

BEDESSEE IMPORTS CANADA IS BORN

By 1981 the Bedessee family had acquired a 3,000 sq ft warehouse to accommodate their ever expanding product line which by then, within the four short years since the Queen Street store opening, had already increased tenfold! All the canned and packaged goods that Canadian based West Indians had grown up with including frozen fish such as gileybaka, grey snapper and king fish, as well as buck crabs, had already become part of the Bedessee product inventory. Most of the seafood products were actually being caught by their own fishing vessels that were plying the waters off the South American coast in proximity to Guyana and Suriname.

A year later, in 1982, the rapidly growing Bedessee Imports business acquired its first USA warehouse in Brooklyn, New York as well as an 8,000 sq ft facility at Midland Avenue in Scarborough. By 2002 the Scarborough location had been expanded to 40,000 sq. ft as home to well over 1,000 products. Within the Scarborough warehouse goods were packaged and chow mein noodles manufactured for distribution across Canada, the US, South and Central American as well as parts of the Caribbean.


26

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

Cricket Hall Of Fame

Induction For Lionel M Bedessee Toronto’s Guyanese-born Lionel M Bedessee, founder of Bedessee Imports, was inducted to the Hartford Connecticut’s Cricket Hall of Fame on Saturday, October 3, 2015. Mr. Bedessee joined former Pakistani star batsman, Zaheer Abbas, former Canadian Cricket Association President, Dr Geoff Edwards and others as 2015 inductees to the US based Cricket Hall of Fame, reputed to be the world’s first of its kind. Bedessee Sports is a Division of Bedessee Imports family owned business, which has had an involvement with cricket as an equipment supplier for over 60 years. As its founder, Mr. Lionel Bedessee had been purchasing cricket equipment from as far back in 1954 when he opened a business in British Guiana. After immigrating to Canada, he re-established ties with such manufacturers as Gray Nicholls and began purchasing cricket equipment in 1978. From humble beginnings of 100 cricket bats sold per year,

Bedessee’s sales soon grew into thousands. They may not have been the first store to sell equipment but they very soon became the best source for quality cricket gear at affordable prices. Bedessee Sports is a fully functional company with experienced staff members who are educated about cricket and passionate about the sport, as well as having the required knowledge for dealing with consumers, retailers and wholesalers. The company started out doing business as a retailer, however due to the growing cricket market its business structure quickly changed to that of a wholesaler. Under Lionel’s guidance Bedessee Imports began supplying cricket equipment not only to the stores, but to schools, teams and leagues also. Lionel also prudently employed some current and former cricketers among his staff, with the experience necessary to help


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

27

customers make the very best choices of equipment. He also used his staff’s knowledge and experience to test new products and provide input on how to make items better for consumers. At its height, Bedessee Imports controlled over 60% of all cricket sales in Ontario. Supporting and selling to home based businesses, specialty shops, large department stores, buying groups and to mass merchants. They have also catered to the Internet marketplace, e-commerce and to newer avenues of social media websites. Through its drop shipping services in the region, Bedessee Imports has helped many established retailers in the marketplace to go on and grow their business. They have also helped many North American retailers get into the sport of cricket by stocking merchandise into their stores. In the beginning, the demand for cricket equipment was limited and there were only a few brick and mortar stores scattered across the country. Today, there are hundreds, as cricket is becoming more popular. The majority of Bedessee’s cricket business is now done via the internet. The Company uses its website to promote the various cricket equipment brands and remain an industry leader. Three Generations Of Bedessee Cricket Fans

Lionel Bedessee, the man responsible for building the Bedessee business empire and making the family’s name a household word in Canada and the USA, remained a simple and humble man. He was always willing to share his experiences that saw him move from a peddler on foot in Guyana to become one of the largest importer/exporter of Caribbean ethnic goods in North America. The Bedessee story is one that confirms that if you work hard and stay focused success will follow you. As you look back at the achievements of this humble man who had a great belief in himself, he stands out as an icon in our community. His children, two girls and five boys, have much to be proud of in having a father of such caliber. His wife Evelyn is not to be outdone as she stood by him providing the support that he needed to scale new heights.


28

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

New York’s Verman Managed Expansion!

US EXPANSION GLOBAL EXPERIENCE

On May 17, 2007, Verman Bedessee, Lionel and Evelyn’s eldest son and the then Vice President of Bedessee Imports New York, was bestowed with a Best Businessman Award. The Award was presented by the East New York Local Development Corporation (LDC) in honour of Verman’s “stellar contribution and dedication to the Community!” In presenting the award, the LDC’s Executive Director Sherry D Roberts said that the organization was extremely proud of Verman’s efforts to improve the City’s economy and of his commitment and dedication to his community as well. Roberts further said that as an honoree, Verman was an outstanding individual, with notable personal and business achievement, who had served as an inspiration for others In his acceptance speech Verman thanked the organization for having bestowed him with the honour. He also pledged to continue to work for the further development of both the Community and the City to the best of his ability. As his father Lionel’s eldest son, Verman’s award was simply a well deserved acknowledgement of the outstanding success the Bedessee Imports family business

had achieved in New York, in much the same manner as it had in Toronto.

At the time of the Award, Bedessee Imports New York was operating from 65,000 sq ft warehouse that had been acquired in 2000 and which boasted an 83,000 cubic ft freezer. This was a significant expansion from the initial New York warehouse with its 17,000 sq ft warehouse and 33,000 cu ft automated freezer.


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

The freezers in both warehouses, initial and subsequent, were used for storing the company’s fish products that were being provided from its own fleet of fishing boats. A second New York location, managed by Lionel’s fourth son Chubb, was handling the company’s sports equipment sales under a Bedessee Sporting Goods New York banner. The establishment of the two New York stores was part of Bedessee Imports initial international expansion which had begun in 1985 with the opening of a fish processing facility in Suriname. Again, the fish that were being processed at the Suriname facility had been caught by the company’s own fleet of fishing boats which were regularly plying the waters off the South American coast and those of the Caribbean. The Suriname based Bedessee Imports fishing plant was subsequently recognized as having been the very first to be approved by the European Union for exporting Guyana’s many types of fishes. Under patriarch Lionel’s guidance, Bedessee Imports US expansion continued further in the midnineties with the opening of a Florida retail store under the

29

management of Ravi, the second eldest son. In very quick time Bedessee Imports Florida was being recognized by the media as the State’s largest retail store, invariably stocked as it was with huge varieties of West Indian products. Over its impressive history and throughout its locations, in Toronto, New York and Florida, the Bedessee line of products had expanded to include exclusive distribution for a number of major Fortune Financial companies. These included Nestle Specialty Foods, Bumblebee’s Unilever Caribbean Ltd. Thomas Tunnock’s Ltd, J.M Smuckers Ltd. and H.J. Heinz Co. Ltd. Products from these companies such as Milo, New Brunswick sardines, Caramel wafers and Golden Ray margarine, exclusively distributed by Bedessee Imports soon became much welcomed staples in thousands of West Indian homes and kitchens across North America. Over the past forty years, through the outstanding efforts of Lionel and his wife Evelyn and subsequently as a result of the continuing work of their sons Verman, Ravi, Rayman, Chubb and Invor, the Bedessee Imports brand has become synonymous with the wholesale distribution and retail sales of only the very best products in terms of both quality and price.


30

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

The company has unwaveringly striven to always pursue the very highest quality and standards in all of its activities. Included among these is the manufacturing of its own line of products, particularly the now globally famous Bedessee chowmein as well as the Caribbean Queen line of sodas. As it enters its 40th year, the Bedessee Company has grown and expanded to include well over 7,000 different food and sporting goods products that are now being distributed throughout Canada, the US and the Caribbean. As a Guyana Free Press article had acknowledged at the time of Bedessee Imports 30th Anniversary, “The Company has had to endure struggles, fought its enemies through legal battles, stave off competition and rise to the top of the economic ladder.” The Caribbean New Yorker edition of May 18-24 2007, which featured Verman Bedessee’s

Best Businessman Award, also acknowledged the Company’s outstanding community contributions: “The Bedessee Corporation has embraced its corporate and community responsibilities as a business leader and West Indian establishment by supporting both local and international organizations throughout the US, Canada and in some parts of the Caribbean. They have sponsored local talent programs and made numerous donations to different religious organizations, charities and other groups that were in need of assistance during urgent situations.” Not at all a bad legacy to have been left for future generations to richly inherit by a humble but ambitious “Bicycle Businessman!” from a small Courantyne village in Berbice, Guyana.

The Bedessee Company has grown and expanded to include well over 7,ooo different food and sporting goods products that are now being distributed throughout Canada, the US and the Caribbean.


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

31

Granddaughters’ Reflections

Amanda & Ariana Amanda’s Reflections As Amanda Joeglal I am the eldest granddaughter of Lionel and Evelyn Bedessee and the daughter of Ravi and Seeta Bedessee. My Grandpa would have been so pleased to see all of his friends and family who’d turned out to pay their final respects to him at his funeral, although he was a very humble man and never really liked to be the center of attention. Also, he wouldn’t have wanted us to focus on the sadness of his death, but instead would have urged us to come together as a family and console each other with our good memories of him. I remember whenever I would talk to him, he would always ask me if I had seen any alligators since I’m from South Florida which is famous for them. Grandpa always had a big affection for them. One summer, he came down with my Grandma, my aunt, and my cousin Ariana and we went to a place called Gatorland in Orlando.

He kept mentioning how he had never seen so many alligators in one place and had so much fun that he talked about it all night. It was definitely a day to remember with him. Every summer we use to have our family reunion and birthday parties at Stouffville (which is what we call our grandparents house) and he would cook his famous multani. He loved to cook so much. Grandpa was famous for his bunje duck and geera pork. How he loved to cook it in his garage in a huge karaie. My sister and I always called him “Cookiehead” even though it had nothing to do with cooking. All the dark freckles on his brown head made it look like a perfect chocolate chip


32

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

Ultimately, I would like to say how proud I am of Grandpa. He was a very educated and successful business man who built an empire from scratch and I will always admire him for that.

But I admire him even more because, despite having all of his wealth, knowledge, and power, he was a down-to-earth, loving grandfather. I am going to miss his jokes about hassa and coconut trees, ghost tales and the old time stories about his friends in Guyana: “Hassaman”, “Goat”, “Bora”, “Throat” and “International”. I want to thank you Grandpa for being such a wonderful person to me, and your family and friends. I thank God that I am able to say that I had all my grandparents there for my wedding ceremonies and he had a great time we will never forget. We will all miss you and love you always. I will pass your wisdom down to my future children and grandchildren. Until the day we all meet in heaven, Rest In Peace Grandpa love you.

Ariana’s Reflections

For those of you who don’t know me, I am Ariana, daughter of Rose and Tony. The only granddaughter that could have called Grandpa, Nana. Also I am the only other Scorpio in the family beside Grandpa. For those of you who ever slept over in Stouffville, the normal routine as you drove out the yard and turned your head around to look back, there they were, Grandpa and Grandma waving goodbye to you and even though they couldn’t see you waving from inside the car - you still did it. When Grandpa took his last ride around the house we were all there, for the first time, waving goodbye to him. It felt very unreal at first but as the days passed

by and more and more families and friends started to arrive, as I looked around it became more real. Except that there was no Grandpa with hands folded behind his back saying “good,good,” critiquing something that was wrong, yelling at one the cousins about how we’re being lazy or wondering where Brandon had gone with his van. I’m going to miss Grandpa the most spending all his New York trips at my house, making me find James Bond or Hawaii Five O on the TV or asking me why we don’t have any Indian channels. There won’t be anyone to call me Princess anymore and no one to call me by my book name, Krishna Devi which he’d given me.


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

No one to tell me I’m wasting time putting makeup on because he’s going to be late for someone’s function. When he was not at our house, every night around 8 o’clock he’d call and ask for my Dad. He never wanted to talk to my Mom or me, always only my Dad. But now, ever since December, not hearing the phone ring at 8 has really changed our lives.

advised that being polite, kind and humble will take me far in life. I’m going to miss his Powchownee, his Hassa Curry and definitely him patting me on my head like a puppy. I’m also going to miss him trying to set me up to get married everywhere we go and him telling me what kind of nonsense I’m learning at school.

he’ll be with me forever and I’ll always be his Princess

When I was little Grandpa used to bribe us to pluck gray hairs out of his head and in return we would receive Cadbury chocolates, his favorite. He was famous for telling his old time jokes that made no sense but they made him laugh so much. He taught me how to count from 1-10 in Hindi. He told me that if I ever wanted anything in life to put it in a letter. He instilled great family values in me, told me that I should always work hard for my own money. He also

I knew that he’d be gone one day but not so suddenly. Normally I’d see all of our relatives only at one of our large events, this year is the company’s 40th anniversary and I’m pretty sure Grandpa would’ve wanted to have a large celebration like he did 10 years ago. But there we were at his sendoff celebrating both the life he’d lived and the new journey he’d left us to embark on. I’m going to miss Grandpa so much but I know he’ll be with me forever and I’ll always be his Princess.

33


34

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

Rayman & Invor At The Helm

A Legacy Ensured! Back in 2002 if you were driving along Midland Avenue, just north of the 401, you might have noticed the name Bedessee Imports Ltd on one of those typical brown warehouse buildings. Upon entry the very first thing you would have noticed was the impressive array of cricket gear: mainly bats, pads, balls, stumps and even a few items of clothing. Just beyond a glass wall and through a door, you would also have found Lionel Bedessee, the patriarch of the Guyanese family business that was at the time, enjoying its 50th year of existence, 20 years in Guyana, followed by 30 in Canada. Further back, beyond another set of doors, in a spacious, somewhat cluttered office, you would also have found Rayman Bedessee, the fifth child and third son of the Bedessee clan of seven. At 35, as he was back then, Ray looked more like 25 and nothing in his demeanour betrayed the business savvy of a veteran. He’d been in the family business for as long as he’d known himself. During his introductory years he was either armed with a rag constantly cleaning products and sticking to Papa Bedessee’s dictum that “a clean business is a

good business,” running errands or filling in as the cashier.

The Bedessee Import business had started from humble beginning in Guyana’s Courantyne village, back in the early 1950’s. After the family had moved to Canada in 1972, the first Toronto location was opened five years later in the Queen Street Jameson area. By 1981 the Bedessee family had acquired a 3,000 sq ft warehouse to accommodate their everexpanding product line which by then, within the four short years since the Queen Street store opening, had already increased tenfold!


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

All the canned and packaged goods that Canadian based West Indians had grown up with including frozen fish such as gileybaka, grey snapper and king fish, as well as buck crabs, had already become part of the Bedessee product inventory. Most of the seafood products were actually being caught by their own fishing vessels that were plying the waters off the South American coast in proximity to Guyana and Suriname.

35

had assumed the managerial responsibilities from his Dad, Lionel, and was fully in charge of all the buying, identifying new products and ensuring that all the required logistics for their introduction to the market were fully worked out. As part of his “General Manager” duties he was constantly travelling to New York, Miami, Guyana and Suriname. While Ray was busy being the General Manager, his Mom Evelyn played an active role in packaging and production while Lionel kept a watchful “Overseer’s” eye on all operations. Back then in 2002, the Company’s overall staff component was approximately 80, of which 30 were engaged in distribution and production at the Scarborough warehouse. Asked at the time whether it would be the Company’s intention to branch out into other forms of business, Ray’s response was that its intention was to simply continue doing what it does best – seek out the very best products and distribute them at the lowest possible price.

A year later, in 1982, the rapidly growing Bedessee Imports business acquired its first USA warehouse in Brooklyn, New York as well as an 8,000 sq ft facility at Midland Avenue in Scarborough. By 2002 the Scarborough location had been expanded to 40,000 sq. ft as home to well over 1,000 products. Within the Scarborough warehouse goods were packaged and chowmien noodles manufactured for distribution across Canada, the US, South and Central America, as well as parts of the Caribbean. By then Rayman

Now operating from its mega office and warehouse at 2 Golden Gate Court in Toronto’s east end Scarborough City location, Bedessee Imports Canadian operations are co-managed by Rayman and Invor.

“LMB the man responsible for making Bedessee Imports Ltd. a household name in Canada and USA.”


36

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

As the third eldest brother Rayman oversees the Company macro management, developing inventory, securing suppliers, marketing and promoting its products and wholesale services. Invor, on the other hand, is responsible for micromanaging the daily administrative operations such as ensuring the fulfilment and efficient delivery of orders to the Company’s retail clientele which numbers in the hundreds.

company has tapped into the niche market of the spreading North American Caribbean Diaspora. “It’s a multi-million dollar business,” Invor admits proudly, if shyly. True to their father’s training, humility has remained a trademark of the Bedessee business philosophy.

Invor and Rayman daily don their respective management hats and get down to the nitty gritty routines of fashioning Bedessee Imports into a continuously evolving modern and efficient work of art. The new space is a mammoth 46,000 square foot industrial building the company had bought. The Bedessee philosophy is clear – work hard, remain humble and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty, even if it means picking up a pickaxe to break the concrete wall for a door to be fitted in. This is how the business was built - from a bottom house grocery store into a global food distribution giant – by the hands on approach. The move to Golden Gate has since allowed Bedessee Imports to expand its production capacities for its noodles, chowmein, and pasta-style West Indian foods core products. It has also significantly increased the volume of other food products the Company now distributes. The firm packages oil, flour, soya protein and spices. It is also the owner of “hundreds” of popular food brand names; Bedessee trades in “thousands” of food items, shipping to 500 stores in Canada and 1,000 in the US. The

As it celebrated its 2017 40th year as a Canadian company, Bedessee Imports, under Rayman and Invor’s co-management, has remained true to the mission and philosophy of its Patriarch Founder, the now deceased Lionel Moona Bedessee Lionel, the man responsible for building the Bedessee business empire and making the family’s name a household word in Canada and the USA. The unwavering dedication to its value mantra has been reflected in the outstanding success the Company has enjoyed. Small wonder that they are indeed “In Your Kitchen More Than You


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

37


38

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy


LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

39


40

LMB 1933-2017 Celebrating A Legacy

Dynasty Created, Legacy Ensured!  

Lionel Moona Bedessee Commemorative Magazine.

Dynasty Created, Legacy Ensured!  

Lionel Moona Bedessee Commemorative Magazine.

Advertisement