(Feb. 21) DELANO, Calif. — From the city life of Pasadena to selling grapes in Delano, it has been a sometimes trying, but rewarding, journey for Sophia Hronis, 73, who retired as a saleswoman for Jim Hronis & Sons Inc. after the fall 2002 table grape harvest.

Actually, Hronis considers herself in semiretirement because she still comes into the office each day.

“I can now show up at 9 a.m.,” she said.

She now keeps an eye on business, but in her 27 years of sales, Hronis started at 6 a.m. selling grapes and promoting the Golden label. Hronis entered produce sales with no formal training and at a time with women were just breaking into the business.

She had a discouraging start when the first buyer she called replied that he didn’t buy grapes from women. Fighting back tears, Hronis went back to the phones, persisted and became a respected and successful table grape seller.

“I enjoyed it,” she said. She adds that the job was pushed on her.

Hronis met company founder Jim Hronis while serving as the maid of honor at a wedding in Los Angeles. Jim Hronis, who was already farming grapes in the Central Valley, was the best man.

The two hit it off and not long after took vows at their own wedding in 1951.

From the 1950s through the mid-’70s, Jim Hronis continued his farming operation. In 1976, he decided to market and ship grapes under the Golden label. He asked his wife to become saleswoman for the company.

She not only took the sales job, but single-handedly began a worldwide promotion of the Golden label with a massive mailing campaign.

The label soon had much stronger recognition and Hronis had the respect of both sellers and buyers in the produce trade.

“You won’t find anyone in the industry that doesn’t think the world of her,” said son Peter Hronis, who began working as a salesman with his mother in 1980.

Sophia Hronis mostly sold table grapes, but she also sold beans, squash and peas. Jim Hronis and Sons now sells table grapes and oranges.

Jim Hronis died in 1991, leaving Sophia and sons Peter and Koster to run the business. It was a tough time for Sophia, but she persevered and the business continued to grow.

“When he passed away, the business was her solace and getaway,” Peter Hronis said. “It made her day go.”

In recent years Sophia Hronis, who grew up in Pasadena, began to think about retirement, and Peter Hronis took over more of the business.

Sophia Hronis now looks back at a career she grew to love. She experienced many changes in the produce trade, including the transition to computerized sales transactions.

However, she said believes that close relationships and telephone conversations will always be part of successful grape selling.

“Personal contact is the only way,” she said.

Through good relationships and hard work Sophia Hronis earned respect from her contacts, which helped make her and the business successful.