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Original Chicago Produce serves several special niches

Original Chicago Produce Co. is creative in working within niches on the Chicago International Produce Market, according to Tony Ragusa, a partner in the firm with Mark Damore.

“We specialize in vine-ripe tomatoes and the rest of the tomato category. I found out that most people buy with their eyes so we try to have good stuff. We bring in best product. It’s easier to sell. In Chicago a lot of sales are done with customers looking at product. They are kind of picky, which is good. It keeps everybody on their toes.”

In addition to tomatoes, the firm has other revenue streams. Small quantities of chili peppers are broken down for sale to small-volume customers. Furthermore, Mr. Ragusa said, “I am the eyes for several people out of state” for those who bought short elsewhere, “we consolidate at our facility” to ship fill-in loads.

Mr. Ragusa said his firm is carefully managed, minimizing employees to help withstand slow periods “and we pay a lot of overtime in busy times. We are “one of smallest business in Chicago market.

Mr. Damore’s father launched Original Chicago Produce Co. in 1946, serving produce on routes to Chicago restaurants.

Mark Damore approached Mr. Ragusa about becoming a partner in the company in 2005.