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Produce Peddlers pivot to help farms, consumers amid COVID-19 restaurant closures

The startup originally was geared for the restaurant business, but with the threat of vegetables dying on the vine, they quickly adapted to change.


There isn’t one sector of business that the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t disrupted. With disruption, however, comes the opportunity for businesses to quickly adapt to survive and potentially thrive. 

That’s exactly what Produce Peddlers have done. 

"Produce Peddlers was designed to be a business to business marketplace, we were connecting sellers and buyers of fresh local produce," said co-founder Gina Wieczorek.

But with restaurants closed and fresh produce from area farms & greenhouses potentially dying on the vine, Gina and Gary Wieczorek needed to quickly adapt. 

"The thing with fresh produce is that the moment is harvested, the clock starts ticking and it doesn't get any fresher," Gina Wieczorek said. "We're always of operating in a sense of urgency with this.

Wieczorek says the urgency was heightened even more, because they realized that in order to sell the produce they had no choice but to pivot their business model and focus on direct-to-consumer sales. 

The startup met with their developers and mentors virtually to quickly update the website. This allowed them to provide bulk produce for sale to consumers rather than restaurants. 

"We quickly understood that change in the environment between buyer and seller, and help them highlight these consumers produce boxes," said Jonathan Gorczyca, a partner at Helm Experience and Design. "Everybody is stuck inside and they still wanted access to fresh produce."

Helm helped Produce Peddlers convert their website in under a week to sell directly to consumers. 

Since flipping their business model three weeks ago, Produce Peddlers has sold nearly 1,000 boxes to consumers across Western New York. The fruits and vegetables they sell would have been thrown away had they not been sold since restaurants are closed. In addition to selling to consumers, 5 percent of sales from the boxes are going towards the hospitality relief fund — a fund designed to help out of work restaurant workers. 

For Produce Peddlers Gina and Gary Wieczorek, it’s all about keeping their business afloat in these trying times, keeping the produce from their farmers from rotting, and being there for consumers looking for alternatives to get fresh produce. 

"We're just offering another option for the consumer," said Gina Wieczorek. "We're pretty pleased with sort of the way that this is all panning out."

Produce Peddlers promises delivery within 72 hours of initial order but usually deliveries are the next day. 

A basic produce peddler box has a couple heads of lettuce, fresh mushrooms from Flat 12 Mushrooms, a dozen eggs, a cucumber, apples, microgreens and tomatoes. 

If you need a big order, the Produce Peddler website also has larger bulk produce options.

Produce Peddlers will deliver across Western New York and you can order right on their website

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