RIO RICO, AZ — Grower Alliance LLC is going year-round in the Roma tomato business for the first time. Working from a modern warehouse amid seemingly countless other produce distributors in the Rio Rico Industrial Park, the firm in mid-January began receiving Roma tomatoes from Culiacan. This deal, coming through Nogales, AZ, will end about July 4.
Jorge (George) Quintero Jr., the firm’s managing partner, said the Nogales Roma deal will give the firm an extended season. Traditionally Grower Alliance brought Romas through McAllen, TX, with that season ending in February.
Why the extended Roma season?
“It keeps our name in front of the customers, so they don’t forget us. And it allows us to get new customers,” Quintero said, adding, “We need to make sure that we keep invoicing. You have cash flow for the season, so when the fall comes in Nogales and you start handing out money to front the growers, it keeps revolving.”
Grower Alliance has handled Romas through McAllen for four seasons. Volume there has increased each year.
Quintero, who is 33 years old, launched Grower Alliance seven years ago with his partner, 34-year-old Luis Caballero. The pair worked together for four years at SunFed before embarking on their shared dream of owning their own company. “We saw the opportunity and took it. Thank goodness we were able to do so much in so little time,” Quintero said.
Grower Alliance anticipates shipping four million packages this season. “We are here to stay. We have established ourselves,” Quintero said.
The Romas, European cucumbers and an expanding colored bell pepper program all come from greenhouses.
Caballero runs Grower Alliance’s honeydew program. Between mid-April and mid-June this year, the firm will ship 350,000 honeydews under the “Dolores” label. The firm also ships watermelons from late March until around July 4.
Beyond the aforementioned items, this spring Grower Alliance is shipping green beans and squash.
When Quintero was born, his father worked in the Salinas, CA, produce business. The family moved to Nogales when George Quintero was preparing to enter college. He applied to the University of Arizona. At the last moment he learned that his enrollment paperwork had been lost. Luckily, an adviser told him he would qualify at the University of Southern California, where he eventually graduated in economics and business. “I loved it there,” he reminisced.
His father helped him get a starting job at SunFed. A year after Grower Alliance was formed the young owners invited the elder Quintero to become a partner in the new company. The father accepted.
Quintero said part of the reason he settled in the Nogales area is he has a brother who is 18 years his junior. He wanted the chance to get to know his little brother.
In his spare time, Quintero, the father of two, has been a Little League baseball coach.
Quintero enjoys the atmosphere of the Rio Rico-Nogales area.
There are many produce firms that are engaged in “friendly competition,” he said. “We talk. We know what they’re doing and they know what we’re doing. Most of these guys you see in town. If you had problems with people here, you would burn bridges,” Quintero said.