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How did a 23-year-old Lebanese immigrant start what’s become a 4-generation family business? It all started with an eye for opportunities, a willingness to travel, and bananas.
In 1911, Farris Martinous arrived in the Midwest looking for a way to build a life for himself and his new wife. He knew all about hard work and hustle. When he found a produce company that was overloaded with bananas, he bought their extra inventory and started going to mining towns, peddling bananas from the back of his horse-drawn wagon. This caught on and over several years he was able to add more and more fruits and vegetables to his deliveries, becoming a fixture in towns throughout southeastern Kansas, southwestern Missouri, and northern Oklahoma and Arkansas.
Eventually, the business became a full family affair with Farris’s wife, Stena, running a small retail store near their home, and his two sons, John and Raymond, joining in. With more hands on deck for pick up and delivery, the company expanded to include relationships with farmers in several states selling tomatoes, apples, strawberries, peaches, and other seasonal produce.
John and Raymond would load up the goods in wooden crates, put them in the back of their pickup truck, and bring it back to sell at the Joplin city market and to retail stores in the area. This process helped the business grow until it was ready for its next big step: refrigeration.
As the offerings of Martinous Produce Company grew, the family had to expand into refrigerated storage to keep the produce fresher for longer. Initially, in the mid-1950s, this meant converting some storage space behind a family home into three coolers: one for tomatoes, one for potatoes, and one for everything else.
Within a few years, the business outgrew this space and, in 1961, John and Raymond bought their first commercial refrigerated storage facility at E. 7th and N. Michigan in Pittsburg, KS. This only spurred more growth and the company began to sell to more foodservice locations. Over the next 14 years, two separate 8,000+ square foot facilities were built to house the growing retail and grocery business.
This respect for the cold chain has been vital to the company every step of the way and is the main reason we’re able to deliver such good-looking and great-tasting products today!
John and Raymond took the torch from their father and grew the family business, and that theme has continued for two more generations. When John’s son, Farris (named after his grandfather), was young, he’d help unload potatoes from train cars by hand, load up trucks and vehicles for deliveries, and basically help in whatever way was needed — preparing him to eventually run the business.
When John passed away in 1978, Farris and Raymond became partners and started to expand more into the foodservice space, selling primarily to grocery stores throughout neighboring states. After Raymond retired in 1994, Farris and his wife, Mary Carol, became the owners of Martinous Produce Company. Around the same time, Farris’s son, Paul, who had already been working in the family business since he was a teenager, took over the responsibility of bringing in new business, officially establishing the 4th generation of the Martinous family in company leadership.
The company continued to grow and moved into our current 38,500 square foot facility in 2003 (where the cold chain always remains intact!). In 2012, Paul took us back to our roots in terms of taking care of the local and surrounding communities by adding two new divisions: Fruitoramma Fundraising and the Naked Fruit Company.
The defining feature of Martinous Produce Company that’s allowed us to keep a family business growing for more than a century is our appreciation and dedication to all those we serve. Whether it’s making emergency deliveries, ensuring the highest safety standards, hand-picking the best produce, or finding like-minded suppliers, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure our customers get the very best from us. At this point, it’s a family tradition!