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Gilmore Produce grows with the times but maintains a personal touch

The Texas Rangers might not have repeated as World Series champs this year, losing the defense of their 2010 title to the St. Louis Cardinals, but the team again proved itself to be one of the best in baseball — and that is where Curtis Gilmore, owner of Gilmore Produce Ltd. in Dallas, draws inspiration.

Gilmore Produce specializes in tomatoes, from greens and mature greens to rounds, Romas, cherry, grape and tomatoes-on-the-vine, and recently expanded its lineup to include Poblano, Serrano, Jalapeño and Anaheim peppers. (Photo courtesy of USDA/ARS)

The Rangers’ growing legacy of consistency and quality is the same model Gilmore Produce has always aspired to achieve, and with similar results. The company is one of the larger packers of tomatoes in Texas, handling greens, mature greens, vine-ripes, Romas, cherry, grape and salsa tomatoes, as well as custom packs.

Gilmore also offers lemons and limes, and it recently expanded its offerings to include Jalapeño, Serrano, Poblano and Anaheim peppers.

Gilmore packs all produce at its 50,000-square-foot warehouse in Dallas to customer specifications with flexible packing options, then delivers in a fleet of company-owned trucks.

Keeping it all running smoothly is a task similar to that which a baseball manager must undertake to ensure a winning season. While Mr. Gilmore is not an expert hitting instructor or pitching coach (though he does know a thing or two about the curveballs nature regularly throws the produce industry), but he does know how to manage and motivate a team.

“It’s not just the management that makes us successful — it’s our employees, too,” Mr. Gilmore said. “Most of them have been here a long time and they deserve a lot of credit. We have very little turnover. They’re dependable and knowledgeable in sales and they’ve been in the produce business in sales through packing and breakdowns, they’re very knowledgeable about our customers’ needs and expectations. I’m just like a baseball manager getting his players to do what he knows needs to be done — they know what they’re doing so that helps out tremendously on our consistent quality. That’s our specialty — consistent quality. Our help’s been here a long time and they’ve grown with the company as far as the knowledge end expectations of the customers. That makes our quality, we feel, consistent at all times.”

The company was founded in 1970 by Mr. Gilmore’s father, Ralph Gilmore, who had previously owned a local cafe, and “I’ve been coming down to work since I was 7, doing anything they needed me to do,” Mr. Gilmore said. From his cafe days, Ralph Gilmore saw the need in Dallas for fresh high-quality produce, so he decided to pack tomatoes at night with his wife.

Demand for Mr. Gilmore’s products soon increased, so he focused all of his efforts on his new business. He built Gilmore Produce around the cornerstones of honesty, fairness and a high standard of excellence in the process of repacking tomatoes. Ralph and Curtis ran the business together until the senior Gilmore was 82.

The lessons Ralph Gilmore learned along the way and passed on continue to drive the family business, Curtis said. “We strive to improve ourselves continually. The younger workforce thrives on technology; however, personal communication is very important to us.”

Gilmore still focuses on tomatoes, but is now in its second year of lemons and limes as well, which it sources mainly from Mexico and Florida, along with the new full line of hot peppers.