(Dec. 1, 5:20 p.m.) From selling produce on the streets of Boston from a pushcart to distributing produce all over the U.S., the DiMares have grown to become one of the country’s largest tomato and vegetable growers and repackers.

The DiMare family business, conducted through the Homestead, Fla.-based DiMare Co. growing operation and its Arlington, Texas-based DiMare Fresh repacking operation, marks its 80th year this year.

In 1927, when grocery stores didn’t sell much produce, three brothers — 18-year-old Joseph, 16-year-old Anthony and 15-year-old Dominic DiMare — pushed produce in Boston’s Haymarket produce terminal area. The three opened a storefront on Hale Street and took out a $3,000 bank loan to buy a license to work in a stall in the city’s old Quincy produce market.

By the start of the 1930s, the DiMare Bros., as their company was called at the time, began marketing produce nationally.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the sons of Italian immigrants formed alliances with tomato growers in Florida, Texas and California, and expanded their repacking business that sold to chain stores into planting their own tomato crops in Florida in 1945 and in California’s San Joaquin Valley in 1950.

Paul DiMare, president of the DiMare Co., and son of Anthony DiMare, said determined second- and third-generation family involvement kept the DiMare business strong.

“I think it shows that the family was dedicated to staying in the business instead of having professional managers come in,” Paul DiMare said. “The family members did it. That speaks well for the family, that the kids wanted to stay in it.”

As the company grew from a repacking business selling to chain stores, Paul DiMare said his father, who died in 1999, and his uncles kept up with the business by traveling to places such as Cuba, where the DiMares imported tomatoes from, and to growing regions such as Nogales, Ariz., where Anthony DiMare lived during Mexico’s season.

“Times changed, and we changed with them,” Paul DiMare said. “You have to be forward-thinking. You can’t stay with the old things. You have to do what it takes to stay alive, and they did that, thank God.”

Tom DiMare, president of DiMare’s California operations and son of Dominic DiMare, said the minors were able to get the $3,000 loan because the bank president had handled the brothers’ deposits and had seen their hard work.

That tradition continued to the third generation, Tom DiMare said. By example, the founders showed succeeding generations that hard work is an essential component of success.

More than tomatoes

Though long associated with tomatoes, red hasn’t been the DiMare’s only color for years.

During the late 1980s, the DiMares began their national repacking expansion by buying Tampa, Fla., tomato repacker J.C. Valenti Produce Inc. In 1999, they purchased TAM Produce Inc., Fullerton, Calif., one of the West Coast’s largest repackers. TAM had repacking operations in Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif.

Boosting its national distribution network, and adding the packing of vegetables, including bell peppers, cucumbers and squash, the DiMares in 2003 bought the assets of Arlington, Texas-based Fresh America Corp. That provided repacking facilities in Houston, the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Chicago, and Scranton, Pa. The DiMares formed the DiMare Fresh Inc. subsidiary for tomato and vegetable repacking.

Charlie Dolan, a DiMare principal and nephew of Dominic DiMare, said the Fresh America acquisition was pivotal in the company’s growth.

“When we acquired Fresh America, it gave us an entree into the foodservice business,” said Dolan, who oversees the company’s New England operations. “It expanded our line and gave us a broader line of products.”

The Texas, Chicago-area, Sacramento and northeast Pennsylvania locations have large foodservice operations and handle other items such as bananas, citrus, lettuce, avocados, onions and potatoes.

Dolan, whose mother Mary DiMare was a sister of the company’s founders, said the second generation, which entered the business after college graduation during the late 1950s and early 1960s, along with its third generation, remains hands-on in running business operations.

Other second-generation family members involved are Sal DiMare, vice president and director of sales, and Jim DiMare, Florida operations sales manager.

Third-generation family members involved are Marco DiMare, general manager of Indio, Calif., operations; Jeff Dolan, director of California field operations; Tony DiMare, vice president of the DiMare Co.; Scott DiMare, vice president and general manager of Florida farming operations; Paul DiMare Jr., vice president of farming; and Jim Husk, Paul DiMare’s stepson and farming operations manager.

DiMares mark eight decades of tomato packing
Paul DiMare (center), president of the DiMare Co., Homestead, Fla., and two of DiMare's growers view mature-green tomatoes in the dump tank during the 1970s. The DiMare family business, conducted through the Homestead, Fla.-based DiMare Co. growing operation and its Arlington, Texas-based DiMare Fresh repacking operation, marks its 80th year this year.