A fruitful business
WINDOM -- Access to fresh citrus products -- and a wholesome fundraising opportunity to boot -- is as close as MinnTex Citrus of Windom.
Family owned and operated since January 1981, MinnTex Citrus continues to be run by the father-son team of Woody and Matt Johnson. They, along with a part-time salesperson and a three-fifths time year-round employee, comprise the bulk of MinnTex's staff.
"I'm the vice president, but since there are only really two of us, I'm not sure how much that means," joked Matt Johnson, who has helped his father with MinnTex since graduating from Mountain Lake Christian School and, thereafter, from a Tennessee college in 2001.
"MinnTex supplies mostly fruit, but also some other items, for fundraising efforts," summarized Johnson of his fruit-filled enterprise. "We work with 4-H and FFA groups, a lot of schools, and sometimes a church or other organization that is looking to raise funds.
"We supply the products that help them do that."
Out of their 20,000-square-foot warehouse in Windom, the Johnsons package the fruit -- along with smaller amounts of nuts, sausage and cheese -- primarily during two busy seasons (November-December and March).
"We employ more people during those two seasonal windows," confirmed Johnson, "but overall we're a pretty small operation."
Nevertheless, MinnTex Citrus has grown continually during the past 30 years.
"There's been slow and steady growth almost since the beginning, with of course some little ups and downs here and there," reported Johnson, who lives with his wife, Karen, and their four children, ages 1 to 8, between Windom and Mountain Lake. "I like the variety of the work, and being self-employed, there are lots of different aspects to this job. I really enjoy that."
Peddling and packaging high quality Texas and Florida citrus, California navel oranges and several varieties of Washington apples and pears is a satisfying proposition, in any case.
"It's fun to be able to supply a quality, healthy product for fundraising purposes," said Johnson. "A lot of fundraising involves over-priced candy and that type of thing, but we think of our fruit as products people can offer and hold their heads high about, because they're selling their customers something people really look forward to buying.
"It's rewarding in that we offer a great product."
Johnson said his parents and business partners -- Windom residents Woody and Tary -- feel similarly about the family-run enterprise.
"I have two sisters who aren't involved in the business," said Johnson.
MinnTex's positioning in Windom is fairly ideal, as it's on a natural path for truck traffic.
"Windom is a good place to be, because a lot of agricultural freight goes from here to the coast -- Texas, California and Washington -- and all those trucks need to haul something back," Johnson said. "Being at the junction of Highway 60 and 71 is a good location for us; it's worked out very well."
Generally, Johnson said MinnTex's boxes of mixed fruit are the most popular.
"Customers can buy a box mixed with grapefruit, oranges, apples, pears or some combination of those fruits, and those are our better sellers," admitted Johnson. "The mixed boxes have been our bread and butter, because people like not just getting 20 pounds of oranges or grapefruit at one time. The mixed boxes are 18 or 20 pounds."
MinnTex operates primarily in an eight-state area -- Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Nebraska and Missouri, with the majority of their sales occurring in five or six of those states.
And when your occupation involves shipping, selling and distributing fruit, you can be sure the Johnsons practice what they preach and eat plenty of the products themselves.
"I don't have a favorite citrus fruit -- I just eat whatever is the sweetest at the moment," laughed Johnson. "We get to be pretty picky, and all our kids really like fruit.
"We definitely eat what we sell."
For more information about MinnTex Citrus, visit minntexcitrus.com.