LONDONERS will now be able to enjoy a taste of Scotland's oldest delicatessen as Valvona & Crolla crosses the border for the first time with a venture in the capital's new Westfield Shopping Centre.
The expansion, under the firm's VinCaff brand, is part of a wider tie-up with the House of Fraser that managing director Philip Contini says could result in a full UK-wide roll-out for the company.
It follows recent openings of Valvona & Crolla outlets at food halls in Loch Lomond Stores and Jenners department store in Edinburgh.
Under the terms of the deal, Valvona & Crolla's VinCaff brand, run by Francesca Contini, will take a space in the new House of Fraser within Westfield London, Europe's largest city shopping mall. The complex, which cost 1.6bn to build, covers 43 acres and houses 1.5m square metres of shopping space.
Philip Contini, 55, grandson of Valvona & Crolla co-founder Alfonso Crolla, who runs the family-owned business with his wife Mary and daughter Francesca, described the move as historic and part of a strategy that could transform the business.
He said: "With the rise of supermarkets and the change in shopping culture for a small firm like Valvona & Crolla there is no status quo.
"We either grow or contract. You have to be proactive. When House of Fraser approached us to do their food halls in Jenners and Loch Lomond Shores we jumped.
"If we get it right we have a food hall model that we can roll out in other House of Fraser stores across the country.
"Then, when the option came to take a space in London we initially thought how can we run a business 400 miles away? But we realised we have the management team to make it happen.
"If it works this could also be the springboard for a nationwide roll-out of the VinCaff brand."
Contini said that the move was the culmination of a three-year assessment of options for the future. Despite 74 years of independence, one of the options included a sale.
"We had to look at the future of the business to try and work out what we do with the brand we have created.
"We have spent three years talking to various professional advisers, other businesses and investors. Selling it was an option. A management buy-out with Francesca at the helm was also considered.
"But during the process we learned a great deal on how to expand and make it a more streamlined, cost-effective, efficient operation.
"We have also put in place a management structure that can grow if the business grows."
Four generations of the Crolla family have been involved in the running of the delicatessen since it was founded by Benedetto Valvona, an Italian immigrant from the Cassino area in central Italy, and Alfonso Crolla, a shepherd's son from the Abruzzi mountains between Rome and Naples.
The firm, which was originally located in the Grassmarket and then St John's Hill, took on its present guise when Benedetto's son Ralph sold his share to Alfonso and his son Victor.
They retained the company name and moved to 19 Elm Row as Valvona & Crolla in 1937.
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