CHICAGO — Small building blocks can lead to long-term success.
Steve Chmelovsky Jr., general manager of operations for EveryDay Fresh Produce Inc., located amid the Chicago International Produce Market, said EveryDay enjoys a pretty steady business. The company has a niche in ethnic specialties that doesn’t see a demand waiver like what may exist for traditional produce items.
In an interview with The Produce News, Chmelovsky indicated: “Dog days are never a problem here. Our customers have almost the same orders as the previous week. It’s a nice base. It keeps us busy. We were the first on the market to take ethnic vegetables seriously.”
Chmelovsky suggested that other produce houses may have viewed ethnic specialties as expensive, small-volume items that were a waste of space.
“We took customers that bought one or two items and brought them together in one place. We took a chance that they would just come here and buy their specialties and then other American items on the street.”
The company is named “EveryDay” to suggest that customers will shop there every day.
EveryDay employs a Spanish-speaking salesman to work with Hispanic chains in Chicago. Traditional retail chains are coming to buy ethnic items.
He added that Chicago’s “bigger chains got on board” as EveryDay customers “because of our reputation for quality. Our reputation preceded us and that alone helped us.”
The foot traffic drawn to the Chicago market “never hurts,” he added.
The Chicago market is close to the city’s Chinatown district. Chinese mom-and-pop retailers and restaurants frequent EveryDay to buy one or two boxes of product. “When the items they want are short, we always have them,” Chmelovsky noted. This is made possible because EveryDay has developed strong ties with certain growers of ethnic items.
Two years ago, Chmelovsky joined the EveryDay staff with his father, Steve Chmelovsky Sr., the president and chief executive officer, who founded the company 11 years ago.
“I handle all citrus sales,” the son indicated. “We started selling lemons full-time eight months ago and they have become a top 10 item in the last six months.”
EveryDay’s top 10 list is mostly dominated by Asian vegetables, including long beans, Opo squash and bitter melon. The firm also sells mangos, papayas and oranges. Because of slim profit margins, EveryDay does not sell limes: “It’s not worth battling six guys for a quarter.”
Chmelovsky is 22 years old. This December he will earn his business degree from Benedictine University in Lisle, IL. He will begin work on his master’s degree at Benedictine in the spring semester.
“I like the (produce) business,” he said. “It’s hectic but it keeps you going. It’s fast-paced. I like it.”