Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S46


Supplier

CHUKAR CHERRIES

Ripening Business

Reorganizing production allowed Chukar Cherries to reinvent itself and enjoy 15 years
of growth in the all-natural, specialty fruit market. BY TIM O'CONNOR
Chukar Cherries' products are in
high demand among fruit lovers
and specialty grocer chains.

ed the company. Montgomery was 30 and a mother
of three young girls in 1986 when she decided to
move from Seattle and bought a cherry orchard with
8,000 trees in Prosser, Wash. At the end of each season, cherries were harvested by hand, leaving many
trees unpicked or only partially picked.
While walking the orchard after harvesting,
Montgomery noticed the dried cherries that remained, plucked them from the branches and savored the natural sugars. She soon got the idea to
start a company that featured these dried fruits and
Chukar Cherries was born in 1988. The company
started off with a drying facility and storefront in
Prosser, Wash., and opened its second store in Seattle's Pike Place Market four years later.

Road to Success

C
J.T. and Pam
Montgomery, owners
www.chukar.com
Prosser, Wash.

46

hukar Cherries was doing all-natural and
locally sourced before it was cool. In the
past 15 years, the Washington-based manufacturer of fruit products rethought its organization and turned a good concept into a thriving business. "From the very beginning, we defined
what we were going to do and what we weren't going
to do," owner Pam Montgomery says of Chukar's
natural approach. "We wanted the product line to
be a mix of wholesome and decadent with a limited
number of ingredients. We wanted a well-operated
work environment where employees could be creative, part of a team, and rewarded."
"Our focus has always been on the best of nature,
the best of chocolate," Montgomery says. That motto
has been a key motivator since Montgomery found-

RETAIL-MERCHANDISER.COM

November/December 2015

When growing cherries for the fresh market, consumers and grocers want them large and picked
green. But for the dried cherries that became the
signature of Chukar Cherries, Montgomery needed
them small and tree-ripened, so she sold the orchard
to focus on Chukar's fruit products.
The first 12 years were difficult as Montgomery
worked to grow the business. "I didn't know what
I was doing," she says. "Here I am, a new mother,
starting this agribusiness. I consider it just pure tenacity and stubbornness the company survived the
first 15 years."
By the late 1990s, Montgomery realized she needed
outside help if she was going to turn Chukar Cherries
into a success. She hired J.T. Montgomery, an experienced factory manager, as a consultant. Montgomery
says he proved to be a good manager - plus, she had
a big crush on him. The two are now married and J.T.
Montgomery is the CFO of Chukar Cherries. "It's
been fun to take all that knowledge and apply it to
this particular business," J.T. Montgomery says.
J.T. Montgomery applied his factory experience
to Chukar's production, reworked the balance sheet
and set to turning the company's systems and culture around. "You have to have a willing audience,"


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015

Contents
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - SCover1
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - SCover2
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - Contents
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S2
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S3
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S4
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S5
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S6
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S7
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S8
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S9
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S10
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S11
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S12
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S13
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S14
Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S15
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Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S19
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Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2015 - S21
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