McCuin’s 86-year-old dad, Terry, was long retired. Back in the day, from 1986 to 1996, he had managed the Superstition Ranch Market — a two-store grocery and farmers market in Phoenix, Ariz.
But in 2015, son T.J., now Superstition Ranch co-owner, made the call and brought his dad out of retirement.
“We brought dad down and we dusted him off and we put him back in the chair. He had hundreds of connections,” McCuin said.
These connections were the produce farmers. The farmers in Maricopa, the farmers in Yuma. Farmers that only grow grapes, farmers that only grow watermelon. Even a local man who has an arrangement with homeowners where he picks all their oranges and grapefruit that would otherwise go to waste. Superstition Ranch then buys up all that product.
“He has a great relationship with them, and he’s just honest,” McCuin said of his dad. “He’s straightforward, he’s done business forever, and he has a lot of respect from all the buyers who call and work with him. People tell us all the time that they really do admire that he’s 86 and still gets up every morning and works.”
It’s these relationships that allow Superstition Ranch to get through the times that are good, and the times that aren’t so good. That, and buying up what suppliers still need to get rid of after the big guys have gone through, have bought their truckloads.
“That was the model that [the former owner] started, and that’s the model that keeps us going. Today, we can sell green grapes for 39 cents because there’s such an abundance of green grapes. We can go out and take the abundance that these guys are trying to get rid of. The strawberries. I mean, that’s why we can almost always sell berries cheaper.”
To house all that produce, the McCuins have about 120,000 square feet of cooler space. McCuin and his dad both used to work in produce, at “Smitty’s,” which eventually got bought out by Smith’s Food & Drug Centers some 20 years ago.
The McCuins’ strategy leans into tonnage: Get your hands on as much produce as you can and sell it as cheap as possible.
“Nowadays, the grocery, it’s all about shrink…it’s just a totally different concept,” McCuin said. “They have their model and it works for them. And our model is we’re looking at tonnage. And we’ve got 39-cent grapes because we have a lot of grapes. So what are we going to do? We’re going to build a big display and we’re going to move them.”
Superstition Ranch Market has 70 employees and does around $11 million in annual revenue. And another point of pride? Food and monetary donations to the local community. In 2022, alone, Superstition donated 11,623 pounds of food to the United Food Bank, among many other donations.
“[Terry] has donated tens of thousands of pounds of produce to local food banks, never turned down one request for aid from schools, churches, veterans or families,” T.J. McCuin said.
What does McCuin love about this industry?
“Every day is different. The customers, the interaction with the people. And to be honest, it’s the kids. I love to come in and see the kids.”
They even have a “kids card” — take it up to the cashier and a child gets to pick out a free piece of fruit.
“I mean, just the look on the kids’ faces when they get to ‘pay’ for it,” McCuin said. “It’s been really successful.”