Back in 1910, a 16-year old entrepreneur by the name of Ben Litowich borrowed $200 to start a produce company in Benton Harbor, Michigan. He began by shipping fruit to the South Water Market in Chicago. Many of these shipments were transported by boat on Lake Michigan. Within months, Ben had earned enough money to pay off his bank loan. Unfortunately, through a combination of overwhelming challenges and bad luck, he lost his final boat shipment of the season, due to very bad weather and the produce was destroyed, along with his all his earnings.
Despite the financial setback, Ben gained valuable experience and in the following spring, he purchased several Model T trucks to transport his produce. At the same time, he opened his own wholesale house at 71st and State Street in Chicago. He was now able to move product successfully from the Benton Harbor market to Chicago. Over the decades, Ben continued to build his business successfully and his outstanding reputation continued to rise in the produce industry.
In 1945, the firm became Ben Litowich & Son, when his 24-year old son, Bud, the second generation became his partner. Bud started out as a berry buyer for processors on the Benton Harbor Farmers Market. Bud who had just gotten out of the United States Navy was full of energy and he and his father saw much growth in their company over the years. In 1946 Ben Litowich & Son was the first company to ship produce by airplane from Benton Harbor to Boston. With this kind of creative and forward thinking, the company expanded to many new production areas, such as Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky to source berries for their growing customer base.
In 1947, The company received its first of many awards, “The Red Book Business Character Award” and earned a four-star rating (the highest). Soon the company received the highest rating “Trading Member” and four XXXX’s in the Blue Book. Both of these ratings are the highest that can be achieved in the produce industry and have been maintained continuously to the present day.
In 1951, Ben Litowich passed away at an early age of 57. His wife, Ann continued for many years to work with Bud in the summers in Michigan on the farmers market.
In 1962, Bud began coming to Florida seasonally to complement his main operation in Michigan. He opened his first Florida office in Pompano Beach Florida and two years later moved his family to Lighthouse Point permanently. Gradually, as the company concentrated their efforts into expanding further in Florida, the Michigan operations were discontinued.
In 1975, the third generation of the Litowich family, 21-year old Ben, joined the firm. In the years ahead there was a series of major expansions in several areas. The company expanded to many seasonal shipping points, Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona. Over the years the company continued to expand its Grower representation, with both Domestic and Imported produce.
In 1988, Ben Litowich & Son acquired an office building in Margate, Florida, just five miles from the Pompano Beach State Farmers Market. In the same year they started Ben-Bud Growers, Inc. which specifically focused on importing of fresh fruits and vegetables. Over the years the importation continued to grow, as well as domestic grower representation. Ben Bud Growers formed a New York division, which represents growers in Western New York and continues to work with the same growers, to this day.
In the early 90’s, Bud Litowich, the third generation retired and Ben took over the family businesses. However, Bud continued to be an advisor and inspiration to everyone in the company for many years to come. His sense of honor and integrity, as well as his fathers are the true spirt and still are guiding his heirs to the present day.
Over time, the family of companies has grown to became one of the premier fruit and vegetable distributors in the nation. Handling millions of boxes of fresh produce annually and importing from nearly a dozen nations. With distribution throughout the United States and Canada. Specializing in many different areas, such as retail consumer packs that are distributed to hundreds of stores nationwide, selling to some of the most premier chain stores in the country.
In 2005, Bryan Litowich, the fourth generation joined the company. Like his father, Bryan started his career in quality control as an inspector. Over the years he moved into the sales department and is extremely involved in the day to day operations of the produce company. He continues, as the three generations before him to maintain the highest standards with the greatest of integrity, as it should be in a company that is over 105 years old.
In 2009, with great delight, the company has expanded once again and Litowich family opened its first retail store, 4th Generation Organic Market & Café in East Boca Raton Florida. Ashley, Ben’s daughter is the true inspiration for the store. Ashley, a fourth generation Litowich, worked at a local juice bar for some time and then with her incredible passion, she and her father, Ben, decided to open, not just a juice bar, but a very special place, beyond all other stores of its kind. With great effort and good fortune, many quality and wonderful people joined the family of 4th Generation. Thankfully, the store’s General Manager is Richard Lewis, who brings tremendous knowledge and experience to the company. Fourth Generation Market and Café offers the very best of organic groceries, prepared foods, produce, and much more. The store is completely driven to be the best in every way and the customer response is tremendous.
In 2013, just short of reaching his 92nd birthday, Bud Litowich passed away. His spirit and life lives on in all of the generations that follow this great man. Bud was able to be at the 100th Anniversary Party that included the new 4th Generation family members as well. Thankfully, Bud built a solid foundation for future generations to grow and expand. His teachings, like his fathers, are inspirational to all that were fortunate to have known him.