While Detroit is known in the produce business for its upscale, independent retail markets, one of the Motor City’s suburbs has developed a reputation for another kind of strong independent store.
“Dearborn has a huge Middle Eastern population,” said Nate Stone, chief operating officer of Ben B. Schwartz & Sons, Inc., Detroit.
“It’s more of an old-fashioned neighborhood with small to medium-sized stores — and a lot of them.”
The city’s population is approaching 100,000, according to the 2010 Census. People of Arab ancestry account for about a third of the population.
“The ethnic community generally has large families,” Stone said, “and they generally cook at home. That’s a good formula for increasing volume.”
Dearborn is roughly 10 miles from the Detroit Produce Terminal.
Stone said the ethnic stores have higher demand for certain items compared to average retailers, such as squash, okra and garbanzo beans.
“The community is unique,” Stone said. “There are stores every few blocks, so there is a lot of foot traffic. It’s great for business.”
Dominic Russo, produce buyer and salesman for Rocky Produce Inc., Detroit, said Dearborn’s ethnic stores move a lot of produce.
“It’s nice to have that area as a customer base,” he said. “They buy quality stuff.”