President of Peter Condakes Company, seller of fruits and vegetables
In 1900, a Greek immigrant by the name of Peter Condakes sold his first orange from behind a small pushcart on a Boston street. Over a century later, the Peter Condakes Company has grown to become a leader in the New England produce industry. Peter Condakes's grandson, also Peter Condakes, is the president of this wholesaler and truckload distributor. The company has gone from a pushcart to providing over 300 different fruits, vegetables, and tropical crops to wholesalers, supermarkets, retailers, and food-service providers such as the Cheesecake Factory and Applebee's.
Condakes worked on and off at his family's business starting when he was teenager, but did not join the company permanently until 1993 after he graduated from MIT Sloan and spent some time working outside the produce industry. At Peter Condakes Company, he started out managing several lines of tomatoes and quickly became an expert on the fruit. In addition to overseeing the buying and selling of these products, he spent much of his time on the lines guaranteeing the quality of his produce. “Knowing when a tomato is ripe and the conditions it needs to get to that point is not a science but an art,” Condakes reveals. One glance at a tomato and he can tell you the temperature it needs to ripen, the time it will take, and which buyers will want to purchase it.
In 1998, Condakes expanded his product line and brought grape tomatoes to market. At first he was surprised by the low level of interest in buyers, but within two years they became a mainstream commodity. “Most fruits take more time than that, ,” says Condakes. “The kiwi fruit took 10 years before it became popular.” The company's tomato lines continue to comprise a large portion of Condakes's business with over 720,000 pounds of the crop moving through their market each week. The company even repackages its own line of tomatoes under the name Harvest Queen.
Even as president of Peter Condakes Company, a position he assumed in 2000, Condakes still spends many hours a day on the floor buying and selling. “Each day the market opens at 5 a.m., and it can be just as unpredictable as Wall Street,” he explains. “It is not rare to go in feeling one way about the market and then feel the complete opposite within an hour.”
Off the floor, Condakes implements changes to the company that strengthen its position as a leading produce distributor. “MIT Sloan reinforced that there is more to a successful produce business than simply the buying and selling,” he says. “Now the finance and administration side of our business is given the attention it deserved.”
Condakes has installed state-of-the-art machinery to increase product line efficiency, hired a CFO who has improved their inventory structure, and moved their systems completely online so all products can be traced back to their source. “All these changes were needed to ensure the future of my family's business,” Condakes says. “And MIT Sloan gave me the confidence to make these decisions.”