(Nov. 6) Tom and Dan Chan, chief executive officer and president, respectively, and nearly 700 of their closest friends, joined to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the company their grandfather founded during the Great Depression.

General Produce Co., Sacramento, Calif., a wholesale produce distributor with 230 employees today, started off as fresh fish and produce provider in 1933 with a staff of five people.

The anniversary event included tours of the company’s warehouse, which was decorated with displays from customers, suppliers and service providers General Produce worked with throughout the years.

“We selected third generation family-owned farmers and businesses like us, and asked them if they would like to display,” Tom Chan said. “They weren’t as much displays of products, but displays of history.”

The event also included speeches from the Chans, who are cousins, as well as from Sacramento mayor Heather Fargo, Sacramento county supervisor Jimmie Yee; Calif. assemblyman Dave Jones, (D-Sacramento) and Nathan Dietrich, district director for Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.).

General Produce got its name when founder Tai Oy Chan, who had been working for General Produce’s predecessor company, Tong Sun Co., restarted the business after Tong Sun was forced to close because of the depression in 1933. General Produce dropped fresh fish two years later, choosing to focus on produce.

Dan Chan said his grandfather thought of naming it Chan & Sons at first, but was worried people might discriminate and not buy from him if he used that name. He and his sons noticed successful companies with names like General Electric and decided to go with General Produce. Tai Oy Chan started the company with his three sons, Eddie, Dan and Tom, and his nephew Davis Sun.

Tom and Dan Chan took over the business from their fathers in the mid-1990s.

The company’s original customers were mostly Chinese restaurants and wholesale markets. In 1941, General Produce started delivering produce to U.S. Air Force bases in California, and continues that today. The company’s business has expanded, and today 50% of the business is to retail customers, 25% to foodservice operators and the other 25% split between export and wholesale markets.

“The kind of direction we took over the years, rather than diversifying produce lines from fresh produce, we diversified our customer base,” Tom Chan said.

California’s General Produce Co. marks 75th year
Dan Chan (from left), president of General Produce Co., Sacramento, Calif.; State Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento); Sacramento mayor Heather Fargo; Jimmie Yee, Sacramento County supervisor; and Tom Chan, chief executive officer of General Produce, attend the company’s 75th anniversary reception on Sept. 20.

Courtesy General Produce Co.