Mike Hughes, left, owner of Doorganics, makes a delivery of fresh produce to customer Jerry Marogil. Photo by Johnny Quirin
Since last year, Doorganics has quadrupled its door-to-door fresh produce delivery business.
Hundreds of households and several businesses have signed up for the local and organic produce delivery service since January 2013.
To accommodate the growth, which also includes an expansion of its delivery area to Zeeland, Hudsonville and Holland, Doorganics recently purchased a second van.
Doorganics makes deliveries Monday-Thursday directly to customers’ doorsteps. The business offers two produce bin options: $29 for a small bin that feeds a family of two to three, or $49 for a large bin that feeds four to five people.
The bin items change based on availability, and households can select weekly or every other week deliveries.
For an idea of what can be found in a small bin, Doorganics customers received the following the week of Feb. 10: an avocado, one bunch of bananas, one pound of navel oranges, two pink lady apples, one pound of bell peppers, one pint of grape tomatoes, one pound of green and yellow squash, one bunch of kale, and a two-pound bag of sweet potatoes.
The larger bin contains the same eight to 10 items as the smaller size, but double the quantity.
Mike Hughes, founder of Doorganics, said the business has evolved significantly since he launched it in Grand Rapids in July 2011. Back then, Doorganics was limited in what it could provide.
“At that point we couldn’t offer customization, schedule management or a streamlined way for them to pay us for the produce, so the service we provided … didn’t meet the exact needs, but we did feel we proved the concept,” he said.
It took Hughes a while to find a way to provide his customers with those services, but in the last year he was able to integrate a software system that would fill all of the customer needs he discovered in the first year and a half of operation.
“Everything has been wonderful since,” he said. “Now customers have that opportunity to customize their deliveries, to swap produce items in that they like and swap the items out that they don’t.”
Customers also can add items a la carte to their order. Hughes said if someone needs an extra head of broccoli, for instance, it can easily be added online.
Other items that are not part of the fresh produce bin also can be added through Doorganics’ online grocery store, including pasteurized meats, dairy items, eggs, bread, coffee, honey and maple syrup.
“I’d done a lot of research about organic home delivery services and I always thought it was really cool. There was never one in Grand Rapids to my knowledge, and I personally thought that I would use the service if it was available,” Hughes said, regarding what led to him opening Doorganics.
Grand Rapids has experienced a rapid shift in supporting the local food movement — evidenced by local restaurant menus that include farm names alongside dishes — and more people want to fill their fridges with local, organic produce.
“When you are working or you have kids or you are traveling, it’s hard to make it to the farmers market and you still want to support local farmers,” Hughes said. “We just set out to solve that dilemma and make it really easy to form that connection with the local farmers and make that delivery to your home so you still can feel connected to local food.”
In addition to home delivery service, Hughes entered into an arrangement with Herman Miller last year so its employees could receive deliveries at work.
“We now work with a few different businesses that see the value in fresh organic and local produce being delivered at work,” Hughes said. “Obviously, it saves grocery shopping time, but it also promotes a corporate culture of healthy living.
“We really see that as a future growth opportunity for our business — to work into the wellness programs of the local businesses.”
With Herman Miller on board, Hughes expanded home deliveries to more West Michigan communities.
“That really opened the door to us to start servicing … Hudsonville, Zeeland and Holland because we have the critical mass we needed to run the deliveries down that day,” he said.
Hughes expects Grand Haven and Muskegon won’t be far behind. He is getting requests from those areas and said his goal is to add those communities by spring.
Besides adding a second van for deliveries, Hughes has gone from one employee to four.
The business has benefited local farms by opening up an entirely new market for them.
“I consider us an additional market because we don’t take customers from the farmers market. Our customers look for the convenience of delivery because they might not have the time to make it to the farmers market. So I feel like we created a new market, in a sense, for a lot of these local farmers,” he said.
While Doorganics focuses on local produce, there are times of the year when it must reach out beyond Michigan’s borders.
“We are still finding root vegetables from local farmers that winter over. That’s what we had to do years and years ago to get us through the winters, but we have great relationships with certified organic farms and distributors,” Hughes said. “We are very proud of our selection of certified organic produce that we carry year-round, but through the winter, particularly.
“This week we have more than 30 different certified organic items for our customers to pick from. I feel like that puts us at the top of the local grocery stores as far as selection goes. We are right up there, if not better.”
Doorganics has formed a partnership with God’s Kitchen, donating all its leftover produce — 100 to 200 pounds each week — to help provide free meals to those in need.
“We started doing this about two years ago. It’s great for us because we know that all of this produce goes to such a great cause and it’s just to help the hungry in our community. We appreciate our customers giving us the opportunity to do that, and they are the reason we have the ability to donate that produce.”
The company has donated nearly 20,000 pounds of produce since the arrangement began.
“We cannot do without the support of our community,” said Rob Miller, director of God’s Kitchen. “With Doorganics providing us bags of fresh fruits and vegetables, the better and healthier our entire community becomes.”
While this winter has posed some challenges — Doorganics’ delivery vans have been stuck numerous times in customer driveways — Hughes said that, overall, the snow has been good for business.
“If customers want the convenience of not having to venture out in the cold weather to go to the grocery store and we can deliver, that is good for business,” he said.