Chan Tai Oy immigrated to the United States from Zhongshan in southern China as the “paper son” of his uncle, Chan Jock Chee. At age 17, he arrived in San Francisco on the steamship S.S. Siberia.
Chan Tai Oy made his way to Sacramento and found employment with Tong Sung Co., a general merchandising company that sold fresh produce and fish. Over time, and through hard work and business savvy, he worked his way up the ladder.
Chan Tai Oy became a managing partner of Tong Sung Co.
When the Great Depression hit, it was devastating for Tong Sung Co. Their customers could not pay them and, in turn, they could not pay their vendors. As a result, the company went bankrupt and left Chan Tai Oy unemployed. In 1932, unemployment had reached 23.6% then peaked at 25% in early 1933. It was particularly tough for the Chinese as no one would hire them.
With the financial backing of his brother-in-law, Jue Chong, the inventor of the asparagus plow, Tai Oy and his sons, Eddie, Dan and Tom, restarted the business as General Produce & Fish Co.
The company decided to focus on produce and discontinued selling fish; the name was changed to General Produce Company.
Frank Fat's opened its restaurant downtown and became one of General Produce's first restaurant customers.
Chan Tai Oy's sons, Eddie, Dan and Tom, along with his nephew, Davis Sun, assumed the helm of the company. Like Chan Tai Oy, the second generation of partners worked 7 days a week to sustain and build the business. Under their management, the company continued to expand. During this time, bananas become their number one selling product. Today, strawberries are in the leading sales spot.
Chan Tai Oy passed away at the age of 85. His sons and nephew carried on the family's work ethic and built the company into one of the largest distributors of fresh fruits and vegetables in Northern California.
Grandsons Tom and Dan returned to the company after graduating from UC Berkeley and gaining valuable work experience outside of the family business.
General Produce diversified beyond retail and wholesale business and expanded into foodservice, delivering products to hotels, restaurants, schools and corporate foodservice operations.
After 51 years at its 16th & B Street site, General Produce moved into a new facility. The expanded warehouse and land provided room for continued growth.
An organic produce company in Mount Shasta became part of General Produce Company, which expanded distribution into Southern Oregon.
Grandsons Tom and Dan assumed management of the company. They led the business with the same family devotion to success and recognition that employees are the heart of the company. During this time, diversification into new markets drove growth. General Produce began exporting fresh produce to customers in the Pacific Rim region. Meeting the needs of the customer meant providing products outside of the traditional fresh fruit and vegetable categories, and the warehouse expanded to include organics, specialty, ethnic foods, dairy and eggs. Complementary items in frozen foods, prepared salads, juices – even wood for cooking – were added to the product mix..
In the early 2000s, the staff grew to over 200 employees in Sacramento and 25 in Mount Shasta. Chan Tai Oy's wisdom and “secrets of success” continue to resonate and inspire the company today: "Work hard, be dedicated and persevere; surround yourself with good, loyal people; and always leave something on the table for the other person." Since its humble beginnings, General Produce constantly strives for better ideas and methods, always taking a fresh look at the company's core practices for continuous improvement.
With Grandfather Chan's wisdom in mind, we're working to leave a meaningful legacy for future generations. Under the guidance of CEO, Jeff Sacchini, a state-of-the-art distribution facility and office complex was completed in March 2022. The 107,000 square foot building is adjacent to Sacramento International Airport. Leading the industry with technology, food safety and a dedicated workforce, General Produce is equipped to responsibly serve customers for decades to come.