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A California company serves up innovation with its produce

By Joanna Schroeder

Most college kids dream of big careers as lawyers or doctors. But Bob Harrington and his brothers Roger and Richard had a unique passion as young men: Produce.

Yes, fruits and vegetables. Whenever Bob would visit a local veggie stand, he’d dream of what it would be like to own a produce business of his own.

Thirty years later, the Harrington brothers have achieved their dream and more. Their company, Specialty Produce, not only has a bustling warehouse where fellow produce-lovers can find their favorite products, but they also deliver to 750 hotels and restaurants in San Diego county, utilizing the dependability, efficiency and cargo space of a fleet of Chevrolet Express vans.

The Harrington brothers are looking forward to the 2015 Chevrolet City Express van, available in the fall of 2014. It’s styled like a traditional passenger van and is about the same height, plus it fits in most parking garages and can make it easier for drivers to navigate busy streets and smaller parking spots—all without compromising cargo space. It’s a game-changer for small businesses like Specialty Produce.

When restaurants like The Hash House ask for 3,000 pounds of potatoes, Specialty Produce is there to deliver their most essential ingredients week after week. After all, what’s hash without those delicious spuds? But Specialty Produce isn’t just potatoes. They also supply their clients with delicacies and gourmet items like micro greens and hard-to-find mushroom varieties.

Bob and the gang at Specialty Produce love fruits and veggies so much that they’re finding innovative ways to help their customers and fans get them, which is important: the USDA recommends that half of our meals be made up of fruits and vegetables.

In 2008, Specialty Produce put their robust recipe database online, searchable by ingredient. Two years later, the brothers decided to make these recipes, along with helpful information about almost any produce you can find globally, available in the palm of your hand with their innovative Specialty Produce mobile app.

Imagine walking through your local farmer’s market—or one halfway around the world—and easily accessing information, photos and recipes about any product, all in one database: You could identify a pitaya, find tips on how to choose a Tuscan cantaloupe or how to prepare Swiss chard.

Even better, San Diegans who have a favorite Specialty Produce product can use the website to find a local restaurant that’s recently received a delivery. If you love squash blossoms, for example, the website will direct you to Cucina Urbana, which orders more squash blossoms than any other client.

Specialty Produce makes it easier and faster for people to enjoy local and delicious produce—and their Express vans are a crucial part of their business. Navigating busy city streets and alleys to deliver the freshest local produce is part of what makes Specialty Produce an important part of the San Diego culinary scene. How do you like them apples!

The trademarks mentioned in this story are held by their respective owners.

Joanna Schroeder is Senior Editor of The Good Men Project and a freelance writer whose work has appeared on xoJane, HLNtv.com, The Huffington Post, The Weeklings and more. Joanna loves playing with her sons and skateboarding with her husband. You can follow her on Twitter @iproposethis.