One hundred years and four generations later, George A. Heimos Produce is well aware of the formula for its success. “Over the years, we’ve always prided ourselves in selling service first and produce second,” President James Heimos Sr. told The Produce News March 8. “To this day we maintain George’s belief that ‘Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.’ ”
A determined trio of brothers — George, Mike and John Heimos — founded Heimos Bros. Fruit & Produce in 1913. Upon the deaths of Mike and John, George Heimos moved forward with added determination. His son, Clint, after serving in World War II, joined the family business. Clint was also the founder of Clint’s Produce, hauling fruits and vegetables for local farmers to wholesale markets in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and other Midwestern states.
The family also moved fresh produce to ethnic and mom-and-pop stores. “There were a lot of independent markets back in those days,” Jim Heimos said, adding that greens were mainstay commodities certain times of the year. “We had a large African-American community we sold greens to in those days,” he added.
His brother, Clinton Heimos Jr., known as Buddy, joined the company after his term of service in Germany during the Vietnam War era. Buddy Heimos’ career was cut short, however, when he died in 1978 at the age of 31.
James Heimos, who worked on and off for the company while he was growing up, made his own corporate entrance in the early 1970s. After the sudden death of his brother, Mr. Heimos assumed the leadership role in the company, along with his father and brother-in-law, Bill Louis. As he describes it, the produce business “is in our blood. The days started early and ran late. It was almost a 24-hour business, seven days a week.”
The original emphasis on working with local farmers is no less important today than it was 100 years ago. “We have been developing relationships over the years,” Mr. Heimos said. “As much as it was in 1913, there is a resurgence in interest in local product and farms.”
Today, George A. Heimos Produce, which has been headquartered at the St. Louis Produce Market since 1953, employs 45 people. Eleven of these employees comprise the purchasing and sales force. The company handles its own logistics to ensure that customer orders are handled efficiently and in a timely manner. “We tailor our deliveries to the many needs of our customers,” Mr. Heimos added.
Customers expect the highest level of service in the area of food safety, and Mr. Heimos said, “We are always making improvements as new laws and rules come into play.”
Mr. Heimos, the vanguard of the third generation, said that he is pleased to see the fourth generation coming of age at the company. His children, Jim Jr. and Stephanie, brother-in-law Bill Louis and his son, Keith Louis, are actively involved with the in the day-to-day operation of George A. Heimos Produce.
As for the next centennial of operation, he said, “We are always looking for new opportunities to serve our customers’ changing needs.”