Crates of produce at Eastern Market

Ben B. Schwartz and Sons, Inc. found its origins with Ben B. Schwartz and Belle Smith. The two emigrated to the United States in 1888, subsequently met, married, and opened a fruit stand in Cadillac Square. The year was 1906. They soon developed a wholesale business, first located in the Western Market and next operating out of the Eastern Market. In 1929, a conglomeration of railroads built the Detroit Union Produce Terminal to support their growing interest in transporting fresh produce. Ben B. was solicited by the railroad to become one of the original participants in that endeavor.

One of the most interesting pieces of surviving memorabilia is a bill of lading made out to Ben B. for the first-ever shipment of produce to D.U.P.T. This documents a railcar of produce from the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, freight bill No. 1, dated July 1, 1929. It was made out for 448 50# crates of Georgia bell peaches, selling for 73 cents each! Check out the original Bill of Lading here.

The second generation of the Schwartz family entered the produce business when the elder son, Sam, joined the company in 1932. In 1934, Barney, the younger son, was attending the University of Michigan as a sixteen-year-old, when he chose to leave college and join his brother in the family business. Sam concentrated on the vegetable side of the business, while Barney became a fruit specialist. Sam and Barney cooperatively ran the company until the early 70’s when the third generation of the Schwartz family arrived. After attending the University of Michigan, Gary Schwartz, Barney’s younger son, became part of the company.

In the mid 70’s, with Sam set to retire, it became necessary to reach outside the Schwartz family to recruit someone to take over Sam’s responsibilities. Chris Billmeyer, at the time working for a competitor, was offered the opportunity.

Gary and Chris successfully ran the business together for the next 20 years. In the late 90’s, Chris and his wife, Janice, the younger daughter of Barney Schwartz, become the sole stockholders in Ben B. Schwartz and Sons, Inc.

In 1995, Chris’ brother, Dan Billmeyer, joined the Ben B. workforce. Dan has played an important role in the company’s success as a senior merchandizer and salesman for over 25 years.

Then, in spring of 2008, Chris’ and Janice’s younger son, Jake, joined the company, establishing its fourth generation. Jake had spent the previous three summers working for Ben B. in various capacities. Jake graduated from the University of Michigan Business School, and entered the company as a salesman/merchandizer.

In 2013, Chris’ and Janice’s older son, Drew Billmeyer, also a University of Michigan graduate, left his position of nine years as a stock options trader in Chicago, returning to his home state of Michigan and his family’s business.

Now, after learning under Chris’ tutelage for several years, Jake and Drew Billmeyer have emerged as the current and future leaders of the Ben B. Schwartz & Sons organization. Responsible for a significant amount of growth and expansion to-date, the two have a distinct vision for the future direction of the company. Moreover, they make everyone around them better by operating at an elite level.

With this solid foundation, Ben B. is moving forward with a growth mindset, achieved organically through a proven record of high service levels to our customers.

Ben B. Schwartz & Sons was founded in 1906 by a Lithuanian couple, Ben and Belle Schwartz. The couple emigrated separately to the United States in 1888 and met in Detroit. After marrying, they founded the company that originally served as a produce retailer selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

The original fruit stand was opened in Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit, and from there the two developed the business into a wholesale fruit business.

Ben B Schwartz becomes an original tenant of the Detroit Union Produce Terminal (D.U.P.T.) after being built. Ben B received the first-ever shipment of produce to D.U.P.T. This documents a railcar of produce from the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, freight bill No. 1, dated July 1, 1929. It was made out for 448 50# crates of Georgia bell peaches, selling for 73 cents each!

Chris Billmeyer teams up with Gary Schwartz, and takes over the responsibilities of Sam Schwartz who retired at the time.

Both of Chris’ sons, Jake and Drew Billmeyer, have now joined the business and are called upon to guide the future strategy of Ben B. Schwartz