Pete’s Fresh Market: Providing Quality Produce at Competitive Prices

Jimmy Dremonas, owner of Pete’s Fresh Market, was just 13 years old when he came to the United States from Greece. The Chicago-based grocer now boasts nine locations in the greater Chicago area with three additional locations in the works, as Pete’s Fresh Market provides some of the area’s best produce for the best price.

Jimmy came to the United States on Independence Day, and he felt this was a sign. Jimmy landed a job selling produce from a cart the next day. He learned English quickly as he hocked fruit and vegetables to passersby.

In the early 1970s Jimmy and his brothers opened a 1,000-square-foot, full-service produce stand on the south side of Chicago. The brothers named their success story after their father with a vision to take the family-owned stand and transform it into something much greater.

Stephanie Dremonas, Jimmy’s daughter and employee of Pete’s Fresh Market, graduated in 2011 from college with a degree in finance and real estate. Having grown up in the family business, Stephanie had a lot of real-life knowledge that her peers lacked. “I’ve always been interested in the business and looked at my father to be a pretty spectacular guy,” she says. “He really has a rags-to-riches story that is truly inspiring.”

“We originated in a minority neighborhood and grew our business around specific ethnic groups and have always tailor our stores to the neighborhood by carrying specialty and international items; however, we strive to be known for offering quality products and service not necessarily be pigeonholed to a specific ethic-based store,” Stephanie continues. “Our ethnicity is quality.”

Catering to the Neighborhood

Each of Pete’s Fresh Market locations is situated in different neighborhoods in the southern part of Chicago. With each neighborhood comes a different set of clientele. “When we open a store, we have an idea of demographics in the area,” explains Stephanie. “We’ll cater to the different ethnic groups shopping at each location.”

When the company’s tenth location opens by the end of 2013, Pete’s Fresh Market will offer an array of products. As customers start frequenting the store, management will keep an eye on buying trends. Then, the market will slowly start eliminating products that are slow movers and adding products customers demand. “The customers tell us what they want,” says Stephanie.

Customers are able to buy quality products at Pete’s Fresh Market that can’t be found elsewhere, as the grocer has a series of buyers that go to farmers’ markets in search of the highest quality goods. Buyers not only look for the best quality, but also the best price for produce. Pete’s Fresh Market’s buyers also look for farmers who can ensure consistent quality.

“We don’t want to have a great shipment of strawberries from a supplier one week then a poor delivery the next,” says Stephanie. For this reason, Pete’s Fresh Market has a standard of quality in both the produce and the provider to build upon to ensure customers have access to the finest products.

One relationship Pete’s Fresh Market has fostered since the addition of a meat, poultry and seafood department is with Chicago-based Nealey Foods. Nealey Foods was founded in 1942 and has grown to become one of the most reliable wholesale distributors in the region. The strong relationship between Pete’s Fresh Market and Nealey Foods helps ensure the market’s emphasis on high quality.

“If customers are coming to Pete’s Fresh Market for produce, we wanted to provide other things too,” says Stephanie. Throughout the years, Pete’s Fresh Market has also added dairy, deli, bakery, frozen foods, liquor, hot foods, cheese islands, meats, seafood and floral departments.

Slow and Steady Growth Ensures Happy Customers

Despite the longevity of Pete’s Fresh Market, the market has taken its time to grow. Between 2013 and 2014 two new stores will be added for a total of 11 locations. “We don’t want to expand too fast,” she says. “You get one store open and let it crawl before it walks. Then you start the next store.”

For Pete’s Fresh Market locations, a lot of thought goes into each individual location. Stephanie is proud to note that her father puts emphasis on the design of each store. As new stores are added, Jimmy is heavily involved in the construction phases and makes sure each location has an aesthetic feel that matches the neighborhood. Then, Jimmy ensures that quality aesthetic is maintained through stringent cleaning policies.

“Cleanliness and quality go hand-in-hand,” says Stephanie. “You don’t want to have great looking produce and then have a floor that hasn’t been mopped.” Pete’s Fresh Market employees are expected to maintain the cleanliness of the store and presentation of all departments.

Employees are the key to customer satisfaction, according to Jimmy. “I like to make sure my employees are happy so my customers are happy,” says Jimmy. “If you have happy employees, then you have happy customers.”

“The employees help give that extra sense of community in each of our stores,” says Marissa Dremonas, director of human resources for Pete’s Market. “Many employees have grown up shopping at the stores and take an extra sense of pride working for the company.”

Throughout the economic downturn, Pete’s Market has seen customer spending habits change and the mound of groceries in a cart diminish. Against all odds, the company has tried to maintain staff for the customer experience. “You can look to your right and left and see a Pete’s Fresh Market employee,” says Stephanie proudly.

Part of Pete’s Fresh Market’s quality customer service is having employees accessible to the shoppers. At each of Jimmy’s locations, Pete’s Fresh Market employees want customers to be able to find help, and ultimately offer bargain hunters a better shopping experience.

It is Jimmy’s No. 1 business philosophy to treat all customers with respect through providing excellent service and making the best products available at a fair price. Jimmy has passed this philosophy on to his children, who hope to maintain the Pete’s Fresh Market legacy for years to come.