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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Martinous Produce is still a family business, but growing

  • It’s a classic American success story. An young man immigrates to the United States, sees an opportunity, grabs it, works hard and earns prosperity for himself and his children.



    That’s just what happened in 1911 when Farris Martinous, 23, immigrated to the United States from a small town in Syria.

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  • It’s a classic American success story. An young man immigrates to the United States, sees an opportunity, grabs it, works hard and earns prosperity for himself and his children.
    That’s just what happened in 1911 when Farris Martinous, 23, immigrated to the United States from a small town in Syria.
    “I don’t think he had any idea what he was going to do when he came,” said his grandson, also named Farris Martinous. “He originally started carrying dry goods to coal miners, then a local fruit company got stuck on bananas.”
    The clever Martinous picked up the bananas and sold them to the miners, who were hungry for fresh fruit.
    “The next day he got more, and by the next day he was in the produce business,” his grandson said.
    As the years rolled on, so did the business. A second generation, brothers John and Raymond Martinous, founded the Martinous Brothers Produce Company shortly after John returned from serving his country during World War II.
    At first they traveled to growing areas in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, loading their trucks with strawberries, apples, peaches, tomatoes and other seasonal produce, then returning to the Joplin City Market and selling some of the produce to other peddlers and retail stores.
    In time they expanded their short line of seasonal produce to include staples such as head lettuce, oranges and grapefruit.
    The brothers had no place to store temperature-sensitive produce, so in the mid-1950s they converted some storage buildings behind their mother’s house at 503 N. Grand into three coolers.
    The business quickly outgrew those coolers, and in 1961 the brothers bought property at East Seventh and North Michigan and build bigger coolers.
    In 1971 they built an 8,100 square foot warehouse at 703 N. Michigan, and in 1975 had to add another 8,100 square feet to house the growing business.
    Eventually, even that wasn’t enough, and in 2003 the company, now renamed Martinous Produce, built a 38,500 square foot facility at 3510 N. Lone Star Road in the Pittsburg Industrial Park. The entire facility is climate-controlled, which is vital in maintaining produce quality, according to grandson Farris Martinous, youngest son of the late John Martinous and current company president/CEO.
    He and wife Mary Carol became owners became owners of the business in 1994 when Raymond Martinous retired, and his son, Paul Martinous, is now vice president.
    “We try to maintain the cold chain as much as we can,” Martinous said. “If it gets warm, that cuts down on the shelf life of the product. Years ago our trucks were insulated but not refrigerated. We’d load at night, open the doors the next morning and the product would be at 50 degrees. Now all our docks, everything, is refrigerated.”
    Page 2 of 2 - There have been other changes in the business, new varieties of fruit and, because of improved transportation, fresh fruit available year-round.
    “You can get grapes year-round now,” Martinous said. “You can get products from everywhere now.”
    Changes are also coming at Martinous Produce.
    The company’s main line of business has been selling to grocery stores, but Paul Martinous wanted to get the business back to its roots and be a bigger part of the local and surrounding communities.
    In cooperation with his father, he has launched two new divisions, Fruitoramma Fundraising and the Naked Fruit Company, which will both combine basic goodness of nature’s best fruits with the ease of online purchase opportunities. Web site is www.fruitoramma.com.
    The Naked Fruit Company is about a passion for eating the freshest, healthiest fruit, which can be purchased through an e-commerce store and delivered every two weeks or every month, as well as one-time gift orders and corporate wellness program packages that may even offer corporations a break on their employee health insurance costs. Web site is www.nakedfruitcompany.com.
    Fruitoramma Fundraising offers a healthy alternative to the candy bars, cookie dough and other high-calorie foods often used for fundraising sales by schools, school-based groups, other youth groups and charitable organizations.
    The “cold chain” will be maintained even during the shipping process for these  new divisions.
    “We’ve come up with containers with a gel pack at the bottom so that the fruit arrives cool to the touch,” Paul Martinous said. “And the container is reusable.”
    His father noted that this packaging does cost the company a little more.
    “But we believe it’s worth it,” Farris Martinous said.
    He has high hopes that Martinous Produce has a bright future ahead of it, based on his beloved grandchildren.
    His son Paul has two sons, John Paul and Jacob, and daughter Maria McDonald has two daughters, Alexis Marie and Eva Madelyn.
    “We’ve got a good opportunity to keep the family business going another generation,” Martinous said.
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