Andrew Skikos, who founded Andy’s Produce Market in 1964 as a humble open-air farm in Sevastopol, died at his Santa Rosa home on March 18 at the age of 88, surrounded by loved ones and faithful miniature dachshund, Willie.
Growing up as one of eight children in Ogden, Utah, Skikos learned early on the values of hard work, humility, faith and family. He carried those principles with him throughout his life as a loving father of five, a shrewd businessman and a self-effacing philanthropist who gave to charities that fed the hungry, friends and family said. .
In 2014, as the outdoor produce market celebrated its 50th anniversary, Skikos recalled that he kept busy as a child helping his family work their small farm and peddling produce from the door farm. wore. In the winter, he remembers, there wasn’t much to eat.
“My dad’s family was really poor, so people who were hungry stayed with him,” said his daughter Kim Heing of Tetonia, Idaho. “One of his main purposes was to feed the hungry.”
Over the years, Skikos’ family of five has grown to include 19 grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren. Many of them worked in the commodity market.
“He instilled our work ethic in us and he worked hard,” said his daughter Shelley Klucznik of Santa Rosa. “We all grew up in the business. We had to work when we were young. »
Over the years, his family grew to include everyone in the market, from his employees to his customers, who ranged from tourists heading to the Russian River to residents of West County.
“He basically turned the business into a family,” said market manager Jack Wingett. “He treated the company and the people in it like family. He knew the names of your wife and children. … It was all about family.
Wingett, who started working at Andy’s in 1985, said the small farm had grown tremendously, physically developing as it followed trends in how people bought and consumed food. With each upgrade, however, the family has kept the market’s front wall open to maintain the original farmhouse charm.
“There were maybe 10 varieties of apples, and now you have 100,” Wingett said. “We buy salmon from Bodega Bay. We will buy Meyer lemons locally, and we will buy local nuts and figs.
In 1988, Wingett helped launch the wholesale arm of the market, which now accounts for 30% of business. A fleet of six small trucks currently delivers produce to more than 100 local restaurants from Petaluma to Santa Rosa.
Wingett said Skikos believes customers should be treated like family and taught him the adage that the customer is always right.
“It’s easier to retain customers than trying to get new ones,” Wingett said. “So you always want to be friendly.”
In search of Eden
Although he only graduated from high school, Skikos had a sense of numbers and he expected his employees to know their percentages as well, Wingett said.
Early in the business, Skikos would drive a tractor-trailer to San Francisco produce markets at 4 a.m. to buy produce, then return and work at the store. He went to bed every night at 8 p.m.
“He had to know how much things cost, and he could tell you the profit,” Klucznik said. “He would have the profit in his head before we got it on our calculating machine.”
Skikos’ love of numbers led him to assign a number to each of his 19 grandchildren, based on their birth order. At the end of his life, his own numbers seemed to line up: the 88-year-old, born in 1933, died in 2022 at 2:22 a.m.
“It was definitely his tribute to the love of numbers,” said his daughter Heing.
Skikos’ father was a Greek immigrant from Argos outside of Athens, Greece, and his mother was American. He attended Judge Memorial High School in Salt Lake City and went to college for a year, then moved back to Ogden to help his family with their small produce market.
He met his wife, Kathrin, at a burger stand in Ogden, and the couple fell deeply in love. They married in 1953 in Eli, Nevada, after running away because Kathrin was not yet 18.
Looking for something more stable for his growing family, Skikos took a trip to northern California in his late twenties and fell in love with Sonoma County. He returned to Ogden and told his wife he had found “Eden”.
The beginnings of the Redwood Food Bank
The couple opened their first farm on Sebastopol Road in Santa Rosa in 1963. A year later they opened a second farm in Sebastopol. Eventually, they would launch a total of five farms in North Bay.
In 1964, the couple began donating food to the community. They packed up their old truck and parked it along Santa Rosa Avenue, where they handed out the food themselves.