“This will be our 25th year as a company,” Jesus (Chuy) Lopez Jr., president of Big Chuy Distributors & Sons Inc. in Nogales, AZ, said Jan. 25.
According to the company’s website, “Jesus (Big Chuy) Lopez Sr. started working in the produce industry in the early 1970s. Through hard work and gained experience he opened Big Chuy Distributors in 1988. A year later, both of his sons, Jesus and Alex, joined him in the company, later forming Big Chuy Distributors and Sons.”
Watermelons and winter squash, packed under the “Big Chuy” label, have been the company’s primary business since its founding, although it has since diversified into some other items as well, such as cucumbers and sweet corn.
A fairly recent addition to the company’s full-sized watermelons was mini or personal-sized melons, which it packs under the “Little Chuy” label.
Big Chuy is in the watermelon business 12 months a year, with production from several areas. In the company’s winter watermelon program out off the states of Nayarit and Jalisco, Mexico, “basically seedless is all we have,” Mr. Lopez said. “Our mini program won’t start until we get back into Sonora.”
The company expects to start Sonora watermelons around mid- to late March and continue through June.
Volume has been light industrywide through the winter deal, initially due to fewer acres than usual being planted. Then volume was further reduced by “some rains and bad weather that affected some of the fields’ production,” Mr. Lopez said. He expected supplies to remain light and prices to remain high throughout February, with a little better volume” in March.
For the spring deal out of Sonora, the melon crop “looks to be about the same” for the industry, and “our program ourselves is about the same for this year,” he said. “We will start back up in April [in Sonora] with good volume,” and by late April and May will have “big volume.” The deal will continue through July 4.
From June through September, the company sources watermelons from California, and then returns to Sonora for the fall season.
The company grows the mini melons for the spring, summer and fall deals, Mr. Lopez said.
“With regard to pack styles, “we are offering the conventional three-pack watermelons or boxes,” as well as “4s, 5s, 6s and bins,” he said. “Right now, in the wintertime, there are a lot more boxes out there.” Customers are “not much into bins yet. Come March, they will start using a lot more bins” and doing more watermelon promotions.
Big Chuy has a 60,000-square-foot warehouse and packing facility in Nogales where, according to the company’s website, more than 90 percent of its product is packed.
Big Chuy’s hard shell squash program runs from fall through spring. “Right now, we’ve got the Acorn, Spaghetti, Butternut, Kabocha and Buttercup,” Mr. Lopez said. Those come out of both Sinaloa and Sonora right through the winter and continue through the spring period into about May.
The company was also offering sweet corn, both yellow and white, along with the watermelons and squash, “and we will have some honeydews for the spring,” Mr. Lopez said.
On sales at Big Chuy, along with Mr. Lopez, are his brother, Alejandro (Alex) Lopez, and Mike Gerardo.