Thrifty Taste – An Interview with Stanley’s Fruits & Vegetables
By, Melissa Alvarez
After much debate on what I wanted to write about, it finally came to me after I thought long and hard about what Chicago small business owners are facing today: High taxes, laying off employees, business management, and finding new customers.
Therefore, I decided to write an article about someone who’s been there, done it, and has the t-shirt: Peter, owner of Stanley’s Fruits and Vegetables. Stanley’s is an adorable store and thrifty option (located on Elston Avenue in Chicago) where everyone goes to get the most affordable and high quality produce in Chicago.
Although I interview people everyday for jobs, this time I was a little nervous. I quickly prepared some questions to ask him, and of course prepared myself to be rejected from even conducting the interview. Luckily he obliged and said with a thick Chicago accent, “Yea, you wanna do it right now?” I chuckled thinking, yes of course, but unprepared I quickly set up the interview for Friday and continued to gather up questions throughout the week.
After interviewing Peter, I realized we have a lot in common. Good values, strong work ethic and our love for food. I also enjoyed speaking with him about his products, for everyone knows my applicable hobby for food and cooking.
Cooking + Family/Friends = Melissa’s Coping Mechanism
If you do a quick Google search you’ll find LOTS of reviews on Stanley’s, but you won’t find a website and you’ll find no history page. You’ll find the address and some pictures of the store, but you won’t find much about how it all got started, and how it continues to be a success after all these years. It’s the story and lessons my own parents and grandparents taught me: “Be good to people and they will always come back for more,” or when you make a mistake, “count your blessings, pick yourself up, and try again.”
All and all, I’m blessed as a new business owner to hear these stories and to do exactly that. Peter doesn’t know this, but he taught me some valuable lessons during our short interview. According to Peter, having a business is simple; it’s about helping and making other people’s lives a little bit easier, and affordable.
1. Tell me a little bit about your background.
Peter: I was born into this. I truly enjoy what I do, and I got involved in the business awhile back ago. My grandfather started it in 1967 after being an independent grocer in the 40’s. We go way back.
2. It’s a tough market out there. How in the world do you guys still manage to sell with these affordable prices?
Peter: It would be easy and honestly untrue to provide you with some sort of strategy in how we do it. Honestly, it just goes back to what my father always taught me since I was 15. “He says, ‘I gotta sell affordable products.’ If they kill the customer today how can they shop tomorrow?'” As a business owner too, you have to know when to change. Quality is important and you just can’t cut corners on it. Your product has to stay consistently good and affordable.
3. Where do you get your products from? I must add, it’s all very yummy.
Peter: The weather has had an effect on some of the vegetables. It just hasn’t been hot enough to get as much corn this season. More than 80% of our products are organic and we get it mostly locally. From local farms, to local tables.
4. You recently introduced a deli. How did this idea come about?
Peter: Change is good, right? Haha, my Dad just called me up one day and said, “Hey, you need a deli. Get ya-self a deli.” So I did. We are grateful for everything. We want to provide people with quality meats, and health conscience foods.
5. What would you say to business owners out there facing this tough economy?
Peter: Don’t go for a margin. One type-quality. Be fair.
2 Thrifty, Easy and Healthy 5 Step summer recipes with Stanley’s Fruits and Vegetables.
1 Stanley cucumber
1/3 finely chopped Stanley sweet onion
1 teaspoon chopped Stanley cilantro
1 clove of minced fresh Stanley garlic
1 cup of sour cream
1 tablespoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of ground cumin
Add vegetables into sour cream mixture and toss well.
5. Serve cucumber salad in a fun and bright colored serving bowl with a sprig of cilantro for presentation.
1. Peel and dice cucumber, chop onion, cilantro and garlic and set aside in a bowl together.
2. In a medium bowl, combine sour cream,salt and cumin.
3. Blend (15 strokes with a spoon).
Chicago “Sport” Hot Dogs
Pack of hot dog buns (wheat or white)
Packaged of fat free beef franks (kosher)
1 Stanley white onion
1 cup of a juicy, fat Stanley tomato
1/3 cup of mustard (Plochman’s)
1/2 cup of sweet pickle relish (Rolf’s)
12-14 sport or jalapeno peppers
1. Boil or grill hot dogs for about 5 minutes until thoroughly heated.
2. Heat buns on grill or microwave for 7 seconds.
3. Place 1 frank in each heated bun
4. Top each frank with each vegetable as you like.
5. Add a squirt of mustard and enjoy.