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City Fresh caters to community needs

Howard Manly | 3/12/2010, 7:48 a.m.
Glenn and Sheldon Lloyd are brothers and partners in City Fresh Inc., a community-based catering business that prides itself on quality business and community development. City Fresh Foods, Inc.

“We had the capacity to do much more business,” Lloyd said at the time. “If we had more space we could quadruple our production.”

Because of his passionate belief, Lloyd attracted an impressive list of supporters. With Boston Mayor Thomas Menino at the podium at City Fresh’s Roxbury site to announce the $190,000 loan stood U.S.  Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin as well as U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II and U.S. Senator John Kerry.

Lloyd was right. Eight years later, City Fresh was doing about $2 million a year. And still Lloyd thought he could do more. Another break came in 2004 when Lloyd was accepted into the Inner City Entrepreneurs, a program founded by Boston University professor Dan Monti and Andrew Wolk, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Calling the nine-month program “a streetwise MBA,” the ICE afforded Lloyd the chance to attend MBA-level classes at Boston University, meet with corporate mentors, venture capitalists and other business leaders.

The program worked. The next year, armed with a new contract serving meals to Dimock Community Health Center’s Head Start program, City Fresh’s annual revenues were up to $4 million a year.

Lloyd still believes he can do more business. But as it is now, he has enough to worry. In addition to Caribbean and Latin meals, City Fresh now offers Russian, Italian, and, of course, soul food. To that end, Lloyd recently hired Lee Shepard, one of Boston’s best soul food chef’s to work with City Fresh’s catering business. In fact, it’s called City Fresh Catering with Chef Lee.

   It is the food business after all, and taste matters, especially to children, no easy judges. Serving children hot, nutritional breakfasts every day that they actually eat is no easy task, especially considering federal and state dietary regulations.

“I’d like to believe that we are pushing the envelope on everything we do,” Lloyd says.

And that’s true. Not too long ago, he discovered that some children were not impressed with his pizza. Lloyd said he thought about hiring an outside company but then one of his employees, Jose Tavares, boasted that he could make the best pizza, if not in the world, then certainly in Boston.

Sure enough, Lloyd decided to have an in-house competition — and Tavares won.  

Of all the exciting things that have happened over the years, including most recently moving into a 12,000 square foot facility in Dorchester, complete with two loading docks and all sorts of fancy kitchen equipment, Lloyd said seeing Tavares win the competition was among the most gratifying.

Though still working with Lloyd as a logistics manager, Tavares has started his own company supplying City Fresh with pizzas and, more important, “is keeping $85,000 worth of business in the community,” Lloyd says.

And that’s the point. It’s not good enough that City Fresh does well. Lloyd said he wants the community to do even better.