Tag: local business

GOING LOCAL IN WESTCHESTER AND PUTNAM COUNTIES: A CONVERSATION WITH JOE DECICCO, JR., DECICCO & SONS

left to right: Chris DeCicco, Joseph DeCicco Jr., and John DeCicco Jr. in front of their Craft Beer Bar in Millwood

Left to right: Chris DeCicco, Joseph DeCicco Jr., and John DeCicco Jr. in front of their Craft Beer Bar in Millwood

DECICCO & SONS regional grocery chain got its start in 1973, when the DeCicco brothers—Frank Sr., John Sr., and Joe Sr.—began selling groceries out of a small storefront in the Bronx. Today DeCicco & Sons has stores in Armonk, Ardsley, Brewster, Harrison, Larchmont, Millwood and Pelham in New York’s Westchester and Putnam counties.

How did your family get into the grocery business?

My father and his two brothers came to America from Italy in 1958. Being from Italy, they had a deep knowledge and love of food and immediately found work at New York City produce stands and butcher shops. In 1973, they opened the first DeCicco’s store in the Bronx.

How did you expand the chain over the years?

The brothers opened their first Westchester location in Pelham in 1985, and a decade later, were operating three more stores. My cousins John Jr. and Chris and I grew up together. In 2006, the three of us joined forces and opened the store in Ardsley. In addition to Ardsley, we now manage the original Pelham store and six additional stores we have opened over the past 10 years. We all share leadership of and responsibility for the business. My dad and Uncle John still walk the aisles all the time, giving us advice and inspiration and visiting with customers.

What’s new in the stores?

We recently introduced a beer and wine bar in Millwood, our newest store, where we host special events and new releases with brewers. All of our stores now have coffee bars, and we roast our own coffee beans in house at the Brewster location. Next up we’ll start serving FIVE ACRE FARMS milk at all of our coffee bars!

How has the local food movement changed your business?

The strong interest in local food among our customers has been a major development for us over the last few years. I know from talking with our customers that their eyes are open about the issues surrounding local food, and they are knowledgeable about seasonality. They understand that there is a time and place for local fruits and vegetables. They know that they can buy apples grown in the Hudson Valley only when they are in season and don’t take that for granted. When you buy dairy and eggs from a local source, and especially with FIVE ACRE FARMS, you know where the food was produced, who the farmers are and how they care for their animals. You know they are giving you a quality product.

How do you maintain your high level of customer service?

Our approach to customer service is very simple: everyone in the family leads by example. No job is too small. We walk around the stores, answering customers’ questions, bagging groceries, rounding up shopping carts, making sure the stores are always tidy. Our employees see us working side by side with them and interacting with customers, which promotes teamwork and collaboration. We also have a well-developed training program for all of our employees.

How do you stay current with the needs and preferences of your customers?

We stay close to our customers to ensure that we can respond to their requests and even anticipate what they want. At the checkout, we always ask, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” Members of our team talk with customers in the stores, our customers email us and they even highlight certain products for us on social media.

What’s your favorite thing about your work?

I love that the food business is so dynamic.There is always something new to learn, and I enjoy the challenge of keeping up with trends and new developments that are relevant to providing the best possible products and experience for our customers. Since I’m a foodie myself, it’s a fun time to be a buyer. I also love merchandising the store and seeing our customers really appreciate quality food.

What’s the most challenging thing about your business?

We operate in a very competitive business environment. Today, with online shopping, convenience stores, and big box retailers, we are faced with more competition than ever. But we also relish the challenge.

What makes the DeCicco’s partnership with FIVE ACRE FARMS work for you??

FIVE ACRE FARMS makes it easy for us to offer local food in our stores and gives us an important stamp of approval in the eyes of our customers. You provide great-tasting, quality products from farms you have hand selected. You tell our customers where their food comes from and connect them with their farmers. It’s obvious that you care about what you are doing. We like how you do business and depend on your expertise. It means one less thing we need to worry about.

LOCAL FOOD MEETS THE MAINSTREAM: A CONVERSATION WITH FOUNDER & CEO DAN HORAN

LOCAL FOOD MEETS THE MAINSTREAM:

A CONVERSATION WITH FOUNDER & CEO DAN HORAN


DAN HORAN founded FIVE ACRE FARMS in 2010 to keep farmers farming and expand access to the region’s best local food. In this interview, he offers his perspective on the company’s mission, its work to bring local food into the mainstream and what it means to be Positively Local®.

How does Five Acre Farms define local food?

The way we look at it, local is about more than just distance. Local means knowing where our food comes from and what practices and processes were used along the way. It means paying farmers fairly to support their responsible farming and business practices. Local means growing the region’s economy and actively participating in the community. It means restoring the connection between farmer and consumer. We like to call this being “Positively Local®”.

What distance is considered local? Is it 50 miles—or 500?

Some people say 50 miles. Others say 500. Under the federal food safety law, local food is produced within 275 miles of where it’s sold. We think that makes sense for the Northeast, though to us, mileage is just one aspect of local. So much goes into growing, processing and distributing food that it’s more realistic to think of that effort as regional rather than going on only within the borders of your own state.

How do you select your participating farmers?

We travel around the Northeast, meeting with farmers and introducing ourselves, FIVE ACRE FARMS and how we work. Once we identify a prospective partner, we make a number of farm visits and learn about their farming practices and processes. We take our time to make sure that we have the shared vision and goals needed for a successful partnership.

Isn’t the farmers’ market the place to buy local food?

I love farmers’ markets. Having started my career as an organic farmer, I learned my first lessons in sales at farmers’ markets and always encourage people to buy directly from farmers. I also believe in keeping farmers farming by making their products more broadly available to consumers. FIVE ACRE FARMS helps farmers get into the mainstream, beginning at the supermarket—where Americans spend the most time food shopping.

Is it possible to buy local food year-round?

While it can be a challenge to buy local all year long, you should be able to get local milk and eggs throughout the year regardless of where you live. Take advantage of that to buy the freshest milk and eggs you can get your hands on. You’ll taste the difference. Other possibilities will vary by region. In the Northeast, where I live, I can buy local apples and root vegetables year-round.

How can I make sure that my neighborhood supermarket carries local food?

Hopefully, you’re noticing more and more local tags and labels in your store. If not, ask the store manager to buy local. Be sure to mention specific local items that you and your family like. Give the store leads by telling them about your favorite area farms. In my experience, grocery stores appreciate and respond quickly to this kind of input. If your store already has a local buying program, applaud its efforts, help spread the word and offer feedback.

There are so many products and claims out there. What’s your advice for making good choices when shopping local in the grocery store?

The key is to know your sources as much as possible. Start with a couple of items, and learn where they come from, who makes them and exactly how they’re handled. If you know the farmer, then you’re well on your way to being able to make a good decision. Sometimes information about the source is purposely hidden from you, and you’ll be able to tell when that’s the case. Knowing that we all lead busy lives, FIVE ACRE FARMS tries to make things simple. When you see our label, you know where your food comes from. You know that it’s local, delicious and healthy. You know that, because we vet our farms carefully, the farmers who produced it treat their animals properly, care for their farmland and groundwater and conserve energy. We do the legwork for you.

Where can I find Five Acre Farms outside the grocery store?

Our focus has always been, as we sometimes put it, bringing the farmers market to the supermarket. We’re also finding a wealth of opportunities to build on that focus by being the local solution in other places as well—like, for example, coffee shops and restaurants, including the new Kellogg’s NYC cereal café in Times Square. We even have local flying at 35,000 feet, where our products are used by UNION SQUARE EVENTS in creating in-flight menus for DELTA. We’re bringing local food into the mainstream where it should be, making it part of our everyday lives.

WHAT IS FIVE ACRE FARMS?

FIVE ACRE FARMS brings the best-tasting local food to grocery stores, restaurants and food shops. We find outstanding farmers using sustainable practices, pay them fairly and tell their stories. Our business helps to create new jobs and promote the local economy, expand access to local food, safeguard the environment, preserve farmland, protect groundwater and foster proper animal treatment. We call this being Positively Local®.

Our Products

Sourced and produced within 275 miles, our products are sold in retail locations and top restaurants throughout New York City and the Tri-State Region. We sell Milk, Half & Half, Heavy Cream, Buttermilk, Kefir, Greek and Regular Yogurts, Cage Free Eggs, Apple Juice and seasonal Apple Cider. Each package specifies the farm where that batch of the product was made.

To Be Positively Local, we:

KEEP FARMERS FARMING
We pay our farmers fairly—and directly —a price that’s above the market rate and reflects what it costs them to make high-quality food, hire and treat people properly, take care of their animals and protect the environment.

IMPROVE ACCESS TO LOCAL
We bring the best local food to grocery stores and price our products so as many people as possible can buy fresh, quality local products.

CONNECT YOU AND YOUR FARMER
At FIVE ACRE FARMS, we tag all of our products, so you know exactly where your food comes from and can be sure that the farmers who made it adhere to sustainable practices. We vet them so you don’t have to.

PROMOTE LOCAL ECONOMIES
We create jobs across the region by partnering with local farmers and processors and doing business with local vendors.

IMPROVE THE ENVIRONMENT
Our farmers have higher standards when it comes to our founding principles of protecting groundwater, replenishing soils and conserving energy.

PRESERVE FARMLAND
Through our work with farmers, we are supporting more than 5,000 acres of farmland in New York, Massachusetts. Connecticut, and Vermont.

What’s With The Name?

It’s been more than 20 years since Dan first had the idea that became FIVE ACRE FARMS. At the time, he was running WALDINGFIELD FARM, the organic produce farm he founded in Washington, Connecticut in 1990. Back then, Dan envisioned a company that would own or franchise a number of five-acre farms along the East Coast, working closely with farmers to market the food they produced. (Why Five? You can produce a huge amount of food and operate a viable business on just five acres of land.) Dan’s original business plan became part of his application to business school, but that was not the end of it. Over the years, while getting an MBA and then working in the grocery business and restaurant management in New York City, Dan continued to refine his concept. He ultimately concluded that FIVE ACRE FARMS could make local food available to more American consumers, and in doing so support a greater number of responsible farmers, by partnering with, rather than owning, farms.

Graze on Local Farm Fare with Delta, Union Square Events Partnership
×