BY DAVID RAMIREZ MATUS
James “Jimmy” Edward Chamberlain was born on the Yerba Buena Ranch near Kino Springs just outside of the city of Nogales. With the odds stacked against him and only a fifth grade education, Chamberlain, at the young age of 14, set out to move into the city to look for work. Chamberlain had settled down working for the Puchi family at their well-known wholesale store. In the mid 1960s opportunity arose when a friend approached Chamberlain because they were looking for a produce inspector for their California based produce company. Chamberlain immediately responded to and began the career that would become his love and passion.
Chamberlain worked his way around the industry becoming seasoned in the business, working his way around adversity and hardships. In 1971 Chamberlain, now with his wife, Sylvia, and two children, was working for a company out of Florida and was met with hardship because he did not receive a paycheck, which was demoralizing for the family at the time. “My mother said to my father, “Jimmy, we need money, we have two children to take care of and we can no longer take these risks,” said Jaime Chamberlain, current President and Owner . Sylvia Chamberlain then made one of the biggest decisions for the family that would change the course of their future.
“My mother was gone all day, when she returned he asked her where she had been, almost like clock work the phone rang from the local Valley National Bank and the banker informed my father that my mother had strongly requested a loan for $1,000 without informing him how and when she would repay the loan,” said Jaime Chamberlain. After acquiring the loan, Sylvia Chamberlain spent the rest of her day applying for a business license and purchasing all the essential office supplies to open up shop for what would later become J-C Distributing Inc.
“From the very next day, my father went into business for himself and purchased produce for whatever he had in the bank and then he would resell it. That was the beginning of J-C Distributing Inc in 1971,” said Jaime Chamberlain.Chamberlain became one of the largest buying brokers in the area. In its early days, its primary commodities were of the squash varieties, but soon after tomatoes were added along with others. Today, Chamberlain focuses on what they believe are their core products, which are tomatoes, bell peppers, squashes, cucumbers and beans. “We seldom deviate from our core line of products. It is a model which we have worked hard to maintain,” said Jaime Chamberlain.
In 1981, a group of growers from the state of Sinaloa, Mexico approached Chamberlain to become their exclusive sales marketer. This agreement saw the creation of a second company named Chamberlain Distributing Inc which would handle distribution and representation of Mexican growers produce exclusively.
At this time Chamberlain Distributing was located inside a rented office at the Wilson Produce warehouse located in the northern part of Nogales, but the growing company now needed a place of its own as operations continued to grow.Jimmy then purchased a warehouse just south of their original offices with a total space of 10,000 square feet, which is where the company still resides to this day and has grown to around 95,000 square feet.
At the helms today is son, owner and president Jaime Chamberlain who grew up working in the industry but began fulltime employment at J-C Distributing in 1987. “I graduated in 1986, and I had not intended on coming to work for the company, in fact I had a job offer to work in produce industry for a company in Chicago,” said Jaime Chamberlain. “My father persuaded me to help him out at the company for a few weeks . “He said if I did not like the work then I could continue to my future plans, but I have been here ever since. I have a passion for our industry and a deep sense of responsibility to our community,” said Jaime Chamberlain.
It was not an easy ride from Jaime Chamberlain, he worked in all corners of the business, training and working hard to earn his spot in the organization. “In the beginning, I was in sales and marketing, but I did not sell my first box until a few years later when my father thought I was ready. I had to earn the opportunity to become a full salesman” saidJaime Chamberlain.
Jaime has come long way as his father did decades past. He has became owner and president of J-C Distributing Inc. The business is still a family affair as his sister, Diana Durazo, is in charge of all financial operations of the business. “My father is no longer on the sales desk but is still very active in other areas of the company. My mother also has an equally active role in the company as she is still the pillar of our company foundation. This is very much a family run business,” said Jaime Chamberlain.
The Chamberlain family have been active members of the community for many years. They have supported local organizations such as the Santa Cruz County Boys and Girls Club, the Nogales/Santa Cruz County Port Authority and St. Andrews Children’s Clinic, which Jaime is a Past Chairman of the board of directors. Jaime is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Fresh Produce Association of Americas, serving as a strong advocate and leader for the produce industry and community affairs. J-C Distributing Inc and Chamberlain Distributing Inc have helped shape the community and produce industry for the past 40 years while making it a vital lifeline to the local economy.
Its footprint, as it is with many of our local international businesses, can be seen throughout the world. Any place on the planet where people sit down to eat at home or at a restaurant, take a moment to realize that your food has probably been distributed from one of the hundreds of produce companies in our community.