Top Companies Profiles-Home Grown
Mitch Blumenthal, 44, has come a long way from his days as an executive at Miami Beach’s famed Fontainebleau Hotel. Today, instead of seeing to the comfort of well-heeled tourists, Blumenthal, the founder and owner of Global Organic/Specialty Source, lavishes attention on organic produce. His company has become one of the largest organic produce distributors in the southeastern United States, with 2008 revenues of $21 million. With projections for 2009 holding steady, Blumenthal is optimistic that business will continue to thrive as more consumers learn about the benefits of organic foods.
A native of New City, New York, a town just 20 miles north of Manhattan, Blumenthal earned a degree in hotel and restaurant management from the University of Denver in 1987 and worked in the hospitality industry for several years. He moved to Sarasota in 1990 and opened Bites, An American Café’ in downtown Sarasota. Five years later, he met a Mennonite couple who ran a certified organic blueberry farm. “I helped pick, pack, palletize and sell the blueberries,” Blumenthal says. “I fell in love with blueberry farming, the connection to the land. I saw good potential in organics, and when I got an offer for the restaurant I knew that the farm was the direction I should take.”
Blumenberry Farms opened in the spring of 1995. Along with growing his own organic berries, Blumenthal starting importing them from New Zealand, eventually expanding the organic distribution business to encompass other produce.
Global Organics was officially formed in 1999. Today the company has 76 employees and 14 tractor-trailers, and distributes 300 different organic fruits and vegetables. Ninety percent is grown in seven southern states with the remainder imported from countries like New Zealand, Chili and Peru. Among his customers are the nation’s largest supermarket chains—Publix, Winn Dixie, Sweetbay and Kroger, to name a few—and a slew of independent natural food retailers.
The downturn has affected business, but Blumenthal remains optimistic. “I realized a long time ago that I don’t need to be the cheapest, I need to have the best quality. I would rather not ship something if it doesn’t meet our quality standards.”