Goodman Produce to Goodies and my memories of the Dallas Farmers Market …
The year was 1916.
Simon Goodman, my grandfather, was working for a candy company in Dallas and earning 10 cents an hour. He was an exceptionally hard worker and when his request for a raise was denied, he quit his job thinking his employer would surely beg him to return! A few days went by with no word from his former employer! Simon knew he would have to search for a new job.
The start of Goodman Produce Company.
In 1916, Simon didn't have the luxury of choosing the line of work he loved. He just knew he had to put food on the table and selling food came to his mind! He bought some corn, offered it for sale and sold every bit of it. In fact, he made more money in one day than he made in an entire week at his candy job! The very next day, he was rewarded with the same results from selling tomatoes. It was then, my grandfather realized that the produce business was where he belonged!
By the mid 1940's.
Jack Goodman, my father, was involved in the family produce business. He helped build the business into one of Dallas' largest wholesale produce companies. It was a thriving business specializing in delivering fruits and vegetables to restaurants, hospitals and grocery stores.
What I remember of the Farmers Market.
My first experience with the Farmers Market takes me back 50 years ago. My name is Chuck, son of Ruth & Jack, and I was first “introduced” to the family business at age 13. The word “introduced” is just a parents way of saying “you need to learn how to work”!
I remember my Dad going to work (or “the market” as he called it) every day at 4:00 am and he wouldn’t come home until 6:30 in the evening – this was 7 days a week! The produce business was a tough business but there was something very special about it. Goodman Produce had a big building directly across the street from the Farmers Market. Actually, all of the different produce companies surrounded the market – there was American Produce, Ben E Keith, Hairston Produce, Standard Fruit & Vegetables, Market Distributing and many others. There was also the Farmers Meat Market and a most special café!
A typical day on the Market.
On weekends and school holidays, my Dad took me to work (remember 4:00am!) and one of my first daily responsibilities was to walk across the street and visit with the farmers. The market was a huge open shed where all different types of produce was sold. I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to learn from this experience – after all, Dad was in the produce business – why did I need to meet these farmers and watch them work? It became very clear that it was not about the produce – it was about the farmer’s work ethic, the pride they took in their product, the way they competed against each other and the smiles on their faces. There was a lot of yelling and rough language, but everyone seemed to be friends. What a great lesson to learn at such an early age – work hard, be fair and become friends!
My favorite place on the Market.
After an hour or so visiting with the farmers, it was time for one of my favorite parts of “working” – going to breakfast at the Farmers Market Café. The sun was barely up, but this was the high lite of my day! I felt so grown up (remember I was 13) going to breakfast by myself, but I really wasn’t alone. The place was packed with “produce people” (all watching out for me even though I didn’t know it). Quickly, I learned how to strike up a conversation with “strangers”, but I didn’t mind because the food was so good. Honestly, I don’t know what I enjoyed most about the café …. being away from work or feeling so grown up in that environment. The days that my Dad joined me for breakfast were the BEST! He knew everyone at the café and there was always lots of laughter. I learned a great deal from watching my father and his friends at the café. Before they came to breakfast, they were “all business”, strict, focused, loud, confident, demanding – actually, it was very intimidating, but then came breakfast. These same people who were ranting and raving about prices, deliveries and quality (just a few minutes ago) were now sitting at the same table laughing and smiling – their friendships were real and they were inseparable! I guess you could say that I learned how to “turn work on and turn work off” at the café.
Visiting other places on the Market.
After breakfast, Dad would have me walk over to the other produce houses to deliver what he called important papers. For a 13 year old, this was a bit scary – after all, I was being sent to “the competition”. Obviously, I knew all the people who worked at Goodman Produce, but I didn’t have that “home court advantage” when visiting the other houses. I remember going to American Produce, owned by the LaBarba family. On the loading docks, the same yelling and screaming was going on at their business just like it was at my Dad’s place – there was a lot of action, excitement and plenty of stares … after all, I was the “competition’s son”, but beneath their stern, rough looking faces, I felt very comfortable with a sense that they were taking care of me. Upon entering the offices at American Produce, I was greeted by one of the many LaBarbas - it seemed that every member of the LaBarba family was named Jimmy, James or Joe. Seriously, it didn’t matter because I called them all Mr. LaBarba – and they were so kind to me. They made me feel at home. Funny how this theme of being “watched over” keeps reoccurring!
I spent a lot of time “delivering important papers” to Standard Fruit & Vegetable, owned by the Rutchik family and to Ben Mosesman’s company called Market Distributing. Also, on my route was one of my favorite places … the Farmers Meat Market, owned by the Rosenthal family. Their building had a huge cooler filled with every cut of fresh meat you could imagine with butchers ready to trim your selection whatever way you wanted. On the weekends, when the farmers market was bustling, the meat market was packed with customers standing in line and butchers yelling “who’s next”! I ate lunch at the meat market every day that I went to work with my Dad. Mr. Rosenthal, or Cousin Harry as I called him, let me go into the giant cooler and make any kind of sandwich I wanted – and the best part was he would never make me pay.
There was a lot of that going on … sharing, I mean. On the market, if someone needed something, they got it and didn’t have to pay for it. A person’s word or hand shake was all that anyone needed. On many occasions I witnessed unbelievable kindness from my Dad, from the Rutchiks, the LaBarbas, Cousin Harry, the farmers under the shed and the owners at the café. Like I said before, produce people are special and I learned an awful lot about generosity and compassion. The farmers market could be a rough place with lots of yelling and screaming going on, but there was an absolute comradery and many special things came from being on the market.
A special encounter because of the Farmers Market.
One of the most memorable trips my parents ever took happened because my Dad’s building was on the Farmers Market. There was a small section of the building at Goodman Produce that was owned by the Catholic Diocese. When they discovered that my parents were going to Italy, they arranged an audience with Pope John Paul II. I have a beautiful picture of their meeting in my office with my parents shaking hands with the Pope – the smiles on their faces are priceless.
Another business is born.
By the 1960's, the produce business had gotten even bigger. This afforded our parents the time to further develop the concept of giving fruit baskets as gifts. Soon, the demand to send gifts of fruit became so big that a separate warehouse was needed each Christmas season just to fill the orders. Ruth Goodman, our mom, would decorate a showroom in the temporary buildings and display all of the "goodies" we had to offer. She created a very warm environment allowing customers to taste our products, offering them a cup of coffee and a place to sit down while they placed their Christmas orders. It became very clear to our parents that this new division of the family produce business deserved special attention! It didn't take long to come up with the name Goodies from Goodman!
The year was 1973.
The first year-round Goodies from Goodman retail store was opened in an exclusive neighborhood shopping center under my direction. We carried the most beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables, fruit baskets, fine candies and gourmet foods from around the world. Our products were the very best and our service was second to none! Goodies from Goodman was fast becoming the place to shop for specialty foods and gift baskets.
In 1975, a catering division of Goodies from Goodman was created. This was a natural transition since we already carried fresh produce and other gourmet foods. We decided from the beginning to target the corporate customer -- companies who bring meals in for business. Word spread quickly about our catering service! Our customers were more than willing to give us a try since we did such great work on their gift baskets!
Another Goodman joins the business.
In 1978, Bobby Goodman teamed up with me to run the family business. It was a perfect match from the beginning! We both grew up in the business and shared the same values. Over the next 15 years, our business really grew! With 50 full-time employees, we operated seven Goodies from Goodman retail locations, averaged 51 catered events a day, added flowers to our gift line and enjoyed a very healthy year-round gift basket business. We’re often asked if a family business is challenging … our response is that we are brothers first – a lesson our parents taught us at a very early age.
We've come a long way since the horse and buggy days!
A lot has changed since those early days on the market. Sure, the internet allows us to operate in a completely different manner and “important papers” are no longer delivered by a 13 year old boy! But some things will never change nor be forgotten. Developing relationships and friendships in business, learning to balance being kind and generous with being tough in business, understanding how to turn work “on and off” and teaching others to be their best are just a few of the things I learned from my time on the market. The Farmers Market might have been “the place” where I learned these things, but my parents were the inspiration.
There is no doubt that my Mom & Dad knew exactly what they were doing when “introducing” me to work at age thirteen! Looking back, I loved going to work with my Dad and I appreciate all that I learned from everyone on the market. My Dad was my hero – he taught us to "operate from the heart first and the pocketbook will follow". My Mom taught us to “never cut corners – always do the right thing”!
Celebrating 100 years in business!
My grandparents and parents would be very proud of me and my brother today. We have always remembered “brothers first” and I cannot imagine being in business with anyone else. Goodies from Goodman is the business it is today because of the kindness of the people in Dallas, Texas. Thank you for allowing me and my brother the opportunity to continue the family legacy …. It’s hard to believe that it all started with a horse and buggy on the Dallas Farmers Market.