Culture & Criticism Since 2003
Have you ever wondered who’s feeding produce to your restaurants and supermarkets? Have you ever wondered where this food comes from and who handles it between the farm-field and the table?
In point of fact, there are many distribution companies scattered throughout the country charged with bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to market – with many of these businesses corporate-run and bottom-line driven, trying to get the most bang for their buck.
Still, in this ever-detached high-tech world of cell phones and IPODS, there’s still a company in Northern California doing it the old fashioned way.
General Produce, founded in 1933 in Sacramento by Chinese immigrant Chan Tai Oy, has spent the better part of a century dedicated to family ideals and honest-dealing.
Tai Oy came to the United States in the early 1900s, selling produce and fish products through the Tong Sun Company until he eventually founded General. Obviously, when Tai Oy opened the doors of his fledgling company, the country was in the midst of the Great Depression and dollars were at a premium; simply, there was no margin for error.
Back in the 1930s, people demanded absolute quality and equitable pricing, as food for the table became the number one priority. And nearly 80 years later, nothing has really changed much, with people at the four corners of the world struggling to feed their families while coping with a ragged economy.
Even though Tai Oy died in 1971, his company still adheres to his strict ideals – namely, a commitment to bring its customers the products they want at prices that allow for an end-sale profit margin.
Now under the direction of Tai Oy’s son Daniel Chan, General is notable for providing the look and feel of a small-roadside farm with the selection and quality controls of an urban center.
To call General unique would be a gross understatement. Instead, it’s more accurate to say that General is an absolute anomaly, stuck on a business model (high-quality coupled with a customer-centered mission) that the corporate sector abandoned long ago.
For this fact alone, the company is worth a sustained look, since it dictates that you will receive a level of service and a standard of product that is geared toward making sure the customer wants to come back – again and again.
THE PROFILE: General serves an array of markets with a full array of fresh fruits and vegetables. Clients include chain stores, warehouse stores, military commissaries, specialty produce hubs, restaurants, hotels, schools and hospitals. In addition, a wide sampling of custom-packaged and cello-wrapped products together with organic and ethnic/exotic produce round out the ‘menu.’
LOCATIONS: General operates from two locations. Headquartered on B Street in Sacramento, with a second location on Ream Avenue in Mount Shasta (launched in 1979 and directed by Mark Derby). These strategic locations allow General to feed the whole of Northern California and Southern Oregon with next-day delivery and personalized attention.
OTHER POSITIVES: General’s staff, on the whole, is knowledgeable about both the products they sell and the ever-changing challenges inherent with selling perishables. Consequently, it’s easy to get direct answers to difficult questions, saving time and money in the process.
TOP PICKS: The array of seasonal items (mandarins, oranges, persimmons, strawberries, sweet basil, tomatoes, cherries, peaches, plums) is unparalleled – with a sharp and even quality. Moreover, the ‘standard’ fare like avocados, potatoes and green-leaf vegetables are noted as products that consumers can count on for taste and freshness. General is obviously buying the right produce from the right growers – the proof of this in the proverbial pudding.
General Produce Co.
P.O. Box 308
Sacramento, California 95812-0308
Phone: (916) 441-6431
Fax: (916) 441-2483
General Produce Co.
P.O. Box 738
Mount Shasta, California 96067
Phone: (530) 926-3805
Phone: (800) 366-4991
Fax: (530) 926-4708