By: Chris Stevens from wickedlocal.com
Not only did the Katsiroubas family learn, like many, to pivot during COVID-19, they inadvertently launched a new business that has continued to grow in a post-COVID world.
Morrissey Market is an online shop that allows families to donate to selected charities aimed at addressing food insecurities while getting local fresh food delivered right to their door.
“While everyone else was watching ‘Tiger King’ I was trying to rebuild a business,” said Torry Katsiroubas Stamm, who along with her brother Ted, owns and operates Katsiroubas Brothers, a 108-year-old wholesale fruit and produce company that serves greater New England. “We had to keep people working and create access to food.”
Katsiroubas Stamm said having grown up in the business made the pivot easy to handle as did the simple reality that, “also, we had no choice.”
What was the COVID impact?
In 2020, Katsiroubas Brothers, like many businesses, came to a standstill.
“During COVID, we delivered to hospitals, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes because they were still operating, but all the colleges, hotels, and restaurants were gone,” said Katsiroubas Stamm.
With a warehouse full of fresh fruit and vegetables literally dying by the minute, Katsiroubas Stamm said they started looking in a new direction. Ted Katsiroubas began to forge partnerships with nonprofits like the Chelsea Collaborative and Fresh Truck, in order to get their produce out to the people who needed it, those facing food insecurities.
At the same time, Katsiroubas Stamm and a colleague began to box up fresh produce for a CSA program called Kats Cares boxes. A CSA is consumer-supported agriculture and is aimed at helping to support local farmers. They sold the boxes for $25 each.
“I started posting on Facebook to family and friends,” said Katsiroubas Stamm. “I could fit 17 boxes in my car and a lot of people were asking us to drop them off at their parent’s houses.”
She said every day was like driving in a blizzard because there was no one on the roads. Within two weeks they had a curbside pickup program at her kid’s school with 800 cars lining up for boxes. “From there we realized a need,” she said.
The Giving Box sparks a business
Kats Cares boxes morphed into the Giving Box. For $45, people could get a box of veggies, greens, and fruit, and a portion of that fee would go to a selected charity, one that addressed food insecurity. Morrissey Market spun out of the Giving Boxes.
Katsiroubas Stamm said over the years she’s built relationships with vendors like Pig Rock Sausages in Boston, Captain Marden’s Seafood out of Wellesley, Hi-Rise Bread Company in Cambridge, One Mighty Mill in Lynn, and Thatcher Farm, right down the road in Milton. All of them offer fresh local food in the spirit of the Katsiroubas Brothers.
“People were calling on us, people needed food and I knew how to get food to people,” she said. “We had the logistics.”
She likens the market, which is solely online, to the milkman of yore who would deliver fresh milk and eggs to a family’s front door, only she can deliver milk, eggs, meat, seafood, snacks, and more and a portion of the money paid still goes to charities addressing food insecurities.
Emphasis on fresh and local food
Katsiroubas Stamm said it’s the “cold chain” that sets Morrissey Market apart from other online grocery stores and CSAs. The products from Morrissey’s are kept cold throughout their journey from purveyor to Katsiroubas Brothers to the buyer’s front door.
All Kastiroubas and Morrissey Market delivery trucks are refrigerated. The Hyde Park warehouse where the businesses operate is kept at 41 degrees and items that need be are packed in cold bags upon delivery, Katsiroubas Stamm said.
“In the grocery store you buy strawberries that have been sitting on a counter,” she said. “That’s why they go bad after two days in your refrigerator. We track the temperature of all our trucks so everything remains in the freshest state … we never break the cold chain.”
Depending on your order it might also be fresh as in made that day.
“We pick up the bread made fresh in Cambridge just before your delivery goes out,” she said. “The emphasis is on local.”
Unlike a CSA there is also no subscription needed or minimum order. “You can still get a Giving Box and we do different holiday bundles too,” Katsiroubas Stamm said.
What drives them?
During COVID, “We took pride in being called essential workers,” Katsiroubas Stamm said. “It was wartime footing.” And keeping the family business viable was important too, she said.
“In the spirit of every family business, you have to be creative or they die,” she said.
Katsiroubas Stamm said the market’s footprint is already expanding with deliveries being made to a number of greater Boston communities including newly added, Lexington, Lincoln, Arlington, and Concord. To see if they deliver to your area go to shop.morrisseymarket.com/pages/faq.