In 1925, on a wine grape buying trip to Central California, the younger brother Stefano, now called Stephen, noticed that in and around what is now San Jose, there was rich farmland with a perfect vegetable growing climate. He contacted his brother Andrea, now Andrew, and soon D’Arrigo Bros. Co., of California was founded and the two brothers were in the vegetable growing business.
In the mid-20’s in America, there wasn’t any interstate highway road network built or refrigeration technology invented to transport and cool fresh produce; one had to be invented. The two brothers didn’t have any growing experience and didn’t know what to grow. The idea came in the mail when broccoli seeds arrived from the old country, and soon there a 28-acre broccoli crop was planted.
The idea of how to transport this fresh vegetable across 2,800 miles of largely unsettled country was already built, tried-and-true and ready to go — the great American Railroads. So in 1926, the first railroad car of California fresh vegetables in our country’s history was shipped from San Jose by younger brother Stephen, destined for older brother Andrew in the City of Boston. Eight days later, the railcar of fresh broccoli reached its destination still fresh and in good condition. The broccoli was unloaded and sold at a profit, marking the advent of the modern vegetable industry.
This new industry in California grew quickly as others imitated what the D’Arrigos had pioneered. The business grew for the two brothers during those early years. Stephen moved to California permanently to handle the growing business and Andrew stayed east in Boston to sell and market the broccoli and other vegetables.
Soon the eastern cities had steady supplies of this amazing new produce item grown in distant California from many competing farmers. To differentiate their produce from other California produce and local eastern produce, the D’Arrigo brothers had another pioneering idea — that of branding.
The first ever brand of fresh vegetables in the USA, Andy Boy, was trademarked in 1927 by the brothers and has been recognized for more than 80 years as a leading brand in the industry. The 3-year-old youngest son of Stephen, Andy, served as the name for the brand. This was fitting as Andy was the son of one brother named after the other.
Today, D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of California is still the industry leader, farming over 30,000 acres of fresh vegetables, all packed under the Andy Boy brand.
D’Arrigo Bros. Co., of New York
D’Arrigo Bros. Co., of New York, the last of the three companies to be founded, came into existence on July 4, 1948. It was always a dream of the two founders to open up a wholesale distribution company in the largest market in America. But the right person didn’t appear until Andrew’s oldest son, Stephen, was given the task.
Stephen, age 25, fresh out of serving his country in WWII in the Navy as an Ensign and completing his college education at Dartmouth, drove down from Boston on July 3rd and opened the next morning. The company’s original address was 308 Washington Street, located in what we now call Tribeca, and boasted five employees.
In the early years, the New York Company specialized in the Andy Boy line of California vegetables and other western items, such as melons and asparagus. The great “Washington Market,” where the company was located, was made up of 250 competing firms all specializing in limited product lines.
After more than 100 years in Manhattan’s lower west side, in March of 1967, the Market moved from Washington Street to their new home in the Bronx, the brand new state-of-the-art Hunts Point Terminal Market.
Over the next 20 years, D’Arrigo Bros. Co., of New York, Inc. thrived under Stephen’s leadership. As the years progressed, the company expanded on its product line to the point where it became a full line fruit and vegetable business, offering one-stop shopping for its many customers. Stephen’s idea to expand the product line, offer more variety and fill more needs for the company’s customers was an original idea in the wholesale industry of the day where specialization had ruled. Because of this philosophy, the company grew very quickly in the 60’s and 70’s.
It is important to note that while this was going on in New York, Stephen’s younger brother Peter had taken over the management of the Boston operation from his father. And out west, Andy, the same son that the brand was named after, had assumed control of the California growing company from his father. So the first generation Sicilian immigrant D’Arrigo brothers had realized their American dream and successfully passed it on to the second generation.