In 1977, three brothers sold their Humboldt Park hot dog stand and, with dreams of opening up a store, went to their father in search of assistance. Their father had such faith in his sons that he gave them $15,000; every last penny he had to his name. Since emigrating from their village of Lykuria, Greece, where they had been sheepherders, the brothers had worked tirelessly to be successful in America. From unloading foods trucks, to being baggers at Treasure Island grocery store, to running their own hot dog stand, Mike, John and Dino Svigos wanted to take their business skills to the next level. They were ready to run a grocery store of their own. So, with everything they had saved up, their father’s entire life savings, and over 15 years of experience of working in the food industry, they opened North Water Market in 1979, which was later renamed Fresh Farms International Market.
Dean Svigos, son of Fresh Farms’ owner Dino Svigos, speaks with pride about his uncles, grandfather and father, “They used to get paid in spoiled food… But they gradually worked their way up,” and worked up, they did. The first store opened in Rogers Park in 1979, followed by a location in Wheeling in 1993 and most recently a store in Niles. Fresh Farms is not just your average grocery store. Dino explains that when the first store opened in Rogers Park there were a lot of ethnic communities that had trouble finding the ingredients they needed to make their traditional dishes so they learned how to satisfy specific cultural needs with regards to food. At each of its locations, Fresh Farms considers the specific population it is serving. “Each store is built based on the community that it is in,” Dino says. So in a neighborhood like Rogers Park, which has a large Indian and Hasidic Jewish population, Fresh Farms carries Indian goods as well as kosher products; each store is completely different with regard to the products they carry.
Fresh Farms is extremely conscientious about the merchandise it supplies. They import specialty ingredients from overseas to provide the most authentic goods for their customers. Most grocery stores bring produce into their stores weekly only to store it for days at a time, waiting to be sold. Fresh Farms, however, has a team of buyers that goes to wholesale markets every morning before the sun rises to select the produce for that day to ensure the freshest produce to their customers. Dean says, “We maintain a strong emphasis on bringing the highest quality produce possible.”
Fresh Farms is passionate about the well-being of its customers. To the Svigos family, and in turn to Fresh Farms, food is the lifeblood of culture, family and health. Just as the Greek philosopher Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” If you are what you eat, then what you eat should be nothing but the best. “I worked for months on this site in order to bring our customers as much information about our products as possible… knowledge is power,” says Dean. For this reason, Fresh Farms has constructed this Blog in order to bring customers weekly updates with regards to the seasonality of produce as well as the health benefits of various old-world recipes and remedies that are consistent with Fresh Farms tenet, “Good in, Good Out”.
In addition to the unique ingredients, quality of food and passion for its customer’s well-being that Fresh Farms provides, it offers something else few businesses do these days: it continues to be a completely family-owned business. “At each location, there’s always going to be one of the owners;, one of the sons or daughters, nieces or nephews,” Dean says. As they look to expand, with plans of opening another location in Niles within the next year, Dean says the business will continue on with the generations. “We’re keeping it in the family.”