HarvesTime Devotes Large Footprint to Produce

When it comes to fresh produce, says HarvesTime owner Chris Dallas, you want to have a first-rate, quality product. “We might not always be the cheapest, but we’re always the best.”

Originally printed in the June 2023 issue of Produce Business.

It was a long way to HarvesTime for owner Chris Dallas — all the way from Greece to Chicago and a neighborhood he learned to call Lincoln Square West. But along the way, he became a grocer who understood produce and how to win customers and neighbors by treating everyone with equal respect.

When Dallas and his brothers arrived in the United States from Greece in 1977, they became involved in different businesses, including restaurants, heating and air conditioning and real estate. Dallas even considered becoming a dentist. Along the way, they founded Edgewater Produce. The beginnings of HarvesTime are in those experiences. In 1995, a for sale sign turned up on a commercial property that was larger than Edgewater Produce and, from that, HarvesTime began.

As it has evolved as an operation, 20,000 square foot HarvesTime is oriented toward fruit and vegetable operations.

“HarvesTime has at least 30% of retail space devoted to produce,” he says.

The neighborhood itself has changed over the years. One that has seen waves of immigrants now has become ethnically diverse, but more stable, with a mix of people in a comfortable environment where it’s great to raise a family. As such, HarvesTime maintains a wide range of produce, with a number of ethnic staples worked in as needed by the store’s customers.

However, the purchasing of what might be considered ethnic products isn’t necessarily limited to the core audience. Dallas says HarvesTime customers are diverse in their tastes and so, Hispanic customers certainly aren’t the only people who buy fresh jalapeño peppers.


To accommodate his customers, Dallas will frequently bring in products that aren’t mainstream, if he thinks there is a neighborhood need.

“This is why we’re here,” he says. “We are here to adjust to whatever the needs are.”

At the same time, Dallas has an approach to selling produce that starts with the product itself.

“We work with the best produce we can buy,” he says. “We don’t buy anything that’s secondary in quality.”

In positioning fruits and vegetables for shoppers, Dallas says that produce merchandising has limitations. It’s hard to do something that is completely new or unique. More important are the state of displays and the people he entrusts to keep them looking enticing.

“The average time for my employees is about seven years, which is a long time for a grocery store,” he says. “We have people working here for over 20 years.”

When it comes to what makes it into and remains in displays, the simple rule is this: If you wouldn’t eat it, you don’t stock it.

“If it’s not good, I don’t care if you’re giving it away for free,” he says, “you are creating a problem for the person who picked it up. That’s pretty much the basis for everything else.”

“The Golden Rule applies. You don’t sell something or sneak something. There is no point in trying to sell a second-rate product. When you have a first-rate product, there’s no reason to reduce quality. You want to improve quality. We might not always be the cheapest, but we’re always the best.”

Dallas says his customers’ response has been gratifying.

“For the most part, my customers say ‘just keep doing what you’re doing,’” he notes. “We’ve been doing this for 28 years in this place, not just a day or two.”

At the same time, Dallas says he doesn’t always respond exactly to what customers ask for, but that’s for a reason. For example, he’ll wait a bit when seasonal produce first comes into the market because it isn’t always the best quality yet. At the same time, seasonal isn’t necessarily the key to his business. Rather, HarvesTime customers, even if it’s a bit ironic to say so, are interested in the store’s year-round ability to provide produce of high quality.

Still, HarvesTime customers do like that the company supports local growers.

“People are happier to know we buy as much from local producers, and we can identify the farms,” he says. “We send our truck to the farm to bring the stuff directly from the farm.”

In the period from midsummer to season’s end, HarvesTime enjoys the flavorful produce arriving from the area including, especially, southwest Michigan, northwest Indiana and, to lesser extent, Illinois, which is more of a soy producer.

Even the troubles of the past few years helped strengthen the bonds between HarvesTime and the surrounding neighborhood. Dallas says he remains gratified that his shoppers were almost invariably polite and even generous to one another in sharing product that was running low on shelves when as he struggled, rather successfully, to stay in stock. In that way and others, HarvesTime has become a stalwart of its neighborhood.