Our story doesn't begin with success.
In 1981, my grandfather opened a little restaurant in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin. He desired to both take care of our family, while doing something he enjoyed. Our whole family worked very hard to make our restaurant a success. Life in the restaurant industry is never easy, and soon my grandfather recognized the need to consider other options. We all did. We needed to think outside the box in order to to continue doing something we loved while providing for our family.
Tree-Ripe Citrus Co. was founded in 1990, becoming Tree-Ripe Fruit Co. in 2019, not because we knew how it would turn out, nor because we had a grand business plan. We realized that something was missing here in the arctic winter months in Wisconsin. Naturally, we love it here. Despite the snow, the icicle laden rooftops, the frigid months before spring, we love the people. The businesses. The commitment they have for supporting local communities and farms. Cranberries, apples, and all kinds of vegetables are midwest staples.
After he began working with citrus growers in Florida, my grandfather saw a considerable difference in the quality of what was being grown compared to what was available in grocery stores in Wisconsin. While superior quality citrus was available by mail order, it came with extremely high shipping prices.
For grocery stores, in order to provide their customers with a wide selection of products, they had to contend with a supply chain, distribution warehouses, and cold storage. In return there was unique shortage of high-quality, delicious fruits. Could we fulfill that shortage? Could we bring the best fruit from the best growers? How could we identify the people who are growing the best produce and bring it to Wisconsin? We wanted to have that same amazing piece of fruit that you could get at the farm, and we wanted to be able to deliver that to our home state without the delivery cost.
We sold our restaurant. My grandfather took his experience and combined it with his knowledge and expertise in logistics, and headed to Florida. We didn't want to focus on many products. With the right produce, making sure it was the best quality possible, our customers could quickly see the difference in the fruit they purchased at our trucks. It caught on like wildfire!
Our customer’s requested more fruit. And why not? We applied our original concept with a few more products, and soon we had what we thought would be our full roster: Florida citrus and Georgia pecans in the winter, Georgia peaches in the summer, and later, Michigan blueberries were added to our summer season.
That’s how we got our start. Thirty years later, and we still love it.
A large part of why we've been successful is because we work directly with our farmers. They have the confidence to let their fruit develop to proper maturity. In other words, their fruit isn’t going to be in cold storage for an extended period of time. They do not need to pick for the sole purpose of having "shelf life". They harvest their fruit at its peak quality, where the sugars, starches, and juices are perfect.
Then we bring it directly to you! We can have our fruit in your hands mere days after it was swinging on a tree. That means what you get tastes like real fruit. The way it used to be. The way it's supposed to be.
We think of ourselves as an extension of the farm, a pop-up farmers market.
Without a doubt, this has become a pretty large undertaking. Our family has become an ‘extended’ family of like-minded people who strive for perfection. Every step along the way, from picking to packing, how it’s handled in transit to loaded onto our trucks, we’re all making sure you will receive the finest product that can be grown. There is nothing better to us than knowing our customers are getting something special.
From the beginning, we had passion. My grandfather’s desire to do what he loved, yet provide for our family, has not changed despite the changing generations. We still bring that same passion every day. We hope that you enjoy the products we bring as much as we do. We really can't wait to share it with you, and we'll see you at the truck!
- Tiernan Paine, Owner