CHICAGO — “EveryDay” produce doesn’t have to mean “ordinary” produce. At EveryDay Fresh Produce Inc. it means service to a customer base that is in the habit of buying produce every day.
Such insight into his ethnic clientele led Steve Chmelovky to name his company eight years ago. The founder is also the president and chief executive officer of the ethnic specialties house, which is located on the Chicago International Produce Market.
Mr. Chmelovky specializes in distributing Indian and Asian produce. He has started to serve the Hispanic trade. “We are always looking to expand our line.”
He said that Asian and Indian consumers “shop every day.” Mr. Chmelovky said that when he worked in retail, “I saw the same customers four or five times a week.” Now, in the wholesale business, “Our customers buy almost every day. We have to be fresh” to serve those diligent produce buyers.
He mostly leaves conventional items, like mushrooms, lettuce and peppers, to other houses. He is not in the banana deal “because we would fight too many guys for a quarter” profit per box.
Now 45, Mr. Chmelovky said that his expereince prior to striking out on his own included working in the produce departments of a Chicago grocery chain. That, with other experience, trained him on the fresh produce needs of ethnic clientele — “What to buy, when, and their holidays. A lot of their holidays are different and there are specific items for each holiday. It took a lot of work,” to learn the needs of his customers.
Mr. Chmelovky said he is now one of Chicago’s larger produce suppliers to the Indian trade. Ethnic products are increasingly offered elsewhere on the Chicago market, “but they don’t do it to the extent we do. We handle more varieties for the ethnic population than anybody here. We only stay with what we know how to do. We have grown tremendously since we started eight years ago, based on our specialty items.” Mr. Chmelovky said his single largest-volume item is okra.
He noted, “At any one point we can have 150-200 items” in inventory.
EveryDay sources from the Dominican Republic, where Mr. Chmelovky owns a farm. Other sources are Honduras, Mexico, California, Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua and Guatemala. EveryDay’s cooler also has products from Vietnam, China and South Korea. He buys mangos from many countries.
“We handle an Israeli persimmon deal” and on May 11 he was awaiting clearance of South African persimmons for the United State market. He expects that U.S. Department of Agriculture approval to come by July.
Some of his products come from Florida growers and some specialty items are “locally grown” in Michigan.
Some Chicago chains have given EveryDay ethnic produce departments to manage. In other cases “we walk buyers through what they need and they order through us.”
The Chicago market is a 10-minute drive from Chinatown, which is the source of a great deal of business for EveryDay.
Mr. Chmelovky enjoys steady business with many small, independent chains, such as Angelo Caputo’s, Cermack Produce, Green Valley Grocery and Pete’s Fresh Market.
EveryDay Produce has accounts in Nebraska, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. The company recently opened a warehouse off the market to handle its burgeoning volume.