Monterey Market – Profile

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Established 1961

Owners

The Fujimoto family

The store was founded in 1961 by Tom Takumi Fujimoto and his wife Mary Nobori Fujimoto.  After emigrating from Japan with his father in the 20s, Tom endured much hardship, working at age 15 in an Oregon lumber mill.  After meeting and marrying Mary, he started a celery farm in the 30s.  It was confiscated when he, his wife, and children were interned during WWII.  After the war, the youngest and fourth child, Bill, was born, and the family started over first on a farm in Idaho, then with a produce business in LA, then several retail produce ventures in Oakland.  Finally he began a market at 1452 Hopkins St., beginning as a full-service store with a butcher.  When two of his sons, Ken and Bill, were fully active in the store, he purchased the larger property at 1550 Hopkins and the store expanded.

Tom’s retirement was gradual.  He was working 48-hour weeks at the age of 81, in 1986.  But when his oldest and youngest sons, Ken and Bill, both previously engineers, came to work full time in the market, Tom retired fully.  He died in 1993.  Mary had died in 1987.

Ken went on to run a sister produce market in Palo Alto for 11 years.  He died of cancer in February 2007.

Bill learned a great deal from his father Tom before he took over the running of the business with Ken.  He endeavors to provide a market for worthy small farmers of all experience, and access to the best produce available to the neighborhood.  He eagerly shares his knowledge and advice with new growers about marketing and pricing and gives them an outlet for their new products.  He is close to the staff on the floor who, in turn, convey to the customers what is special about each item and, in some cases with unusual fruits and vegetables, how to cook or serve them.  He seeks out what his customers ask for, and buys ripe fruit and vegetables at their prime that have only a short shelf-life left, accepting the risk that they may not sell quickly.  He gives the farmers a fair price for their produce, and charges a fair price to his customers.  He has introduced his customers, many of whom are chefs at both big and small restaurants, to new and unusual fruits and vegetables.  He carries foraged as well as farmed food, always careful about its quality.

As the folks from Churchill-Brenneis Orchard, a small tangerine and avocado farm in Ojai, say, “Farmers from up and down California can tell you the same story, ‘Bill was my first customer.’”

Challenges

Buying ripe fruits and vegetables, introducing customers to new items and getting them to try them, dealing with so many farmers on a small scale, are only a few of the challenges of this type of produce business.

Principles

Monterey Market endeavors to be a neighborhood store selling exciting, healthful, delicious produce at reasonable prices.

Practices

Always willing to try new things and experiment.   Seek out farmers who are passionate about their products. Seek out feedback from local chefs.

Length of relationship with Oliveto

Since Oliveto’s beginnings.  1986.

Location

1550 Hopkins Street, Berkeley

Products

Produce and grocery.

Distribution

Local shoppers and restaurant chefs

Website

http://www.montereymarket.com/

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