Rudy’s Exotic Mushrooms & Produce: Contributing Way More to Richmond Than Just Fruits and Vegetables

Rudy and His Crew

These days in the city, it’s trendy and hip to eat locally harvested produce and to buy fruits and vegetables from the nearest farmers. In recent years especially, restaurants have eagerly responded to customer preferences by serving locally grown produce. Rudy Karkosak, the owner of a Richmond based produce distribution company called Rudy’s Exotic Mushrooms & Produce, was arguably one of the pioneers of this movement.
“The mushroom idea came about through a family connection,” says Rudy about the spontaneous development of his company. Starting solely with mushroom distribution, his business was established twenty-one years ago, when he got together with his brother-in-law who cultivated mushrooms in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. At the time, Rudy was unenthused with his job working for a bank, and he was anxious for a change.
A few nights a week, after working an eight hour shift, Rudy would drive four and a half long hours from Richmond to Pennsylvania to pick up the mushrooms, then proceed to make the journey back at four o’clock the following morning. Despite the tiring ten hour drive, “I always felt energized at the end of the day because I was doing my own thing and creating something special,” he says.
After nine months of hard work, Rudy was able to withdraw from his position at the bank and passionately pursue the mushroom business full time, selling portobello, shiitake, oyster, crimini, and white mushrooms. In 2009, after fifteen years of steady business, Rudy expanded and began sourcing many different types of fruits and vegetables.
Today, Rudy provides fresh produce for many thriving restaurants and markets in the area, including Ellwood Thompson’s, Groovin’ Gourmets, and the Governor’s Mansion. Contributing greatly to his success is the stress he places on strong customer relationships. “Our entire crew takes the time to be friendly with all the people we sell to, from the head chef to the dishwashers,” Rudy states. “Every client we sell to has different needs, and we do everything we can to ensure that those needs are met.”
Groovin’ Gourmet’s head chef Tim Delling feels lucky to have such an accommodating vendor right down the street. “Rudy’s the best,” he says, “He gets me everything I need, whether it’s tiny amounts of food for a tasting, or pounds of vegetables for a wedding.”
Rudy shares Tim’s enthusiasm. “We work together to get them exactly the produce they need, exactly when they need it. We are so excited to have such a great catering company not only in the neighborhood, but right next door!” He adds.
Rudy’s desire to source from nearby vendors has also contributed to his popularity. “It’s important to get everything as local as possible because less travel time ensures for fresher produce. We began buying local not because it was cool, but because it just made sense and helped us to provide the best quality, freshest products,” says Rudy. Rudy works mainly with Virginia based distributors and local farms, but also sources from wherever necessary to get the best produce at the best price for his customers. The strawberries, for instance, that Rudy provides for Chef Tim to use in his strawberry balsamic salad, come from Agriberry Farms of Virginia when they are in season.
His company even provides for citizens of Richmond who do not have the resources to pay him. By generously donating with both monetary and edible donations, Rudy’s Exotic Mushrooms works with many charities, including the MS Society, American Heart Association, Art 180, Art on Wheels, and Fan Free Clinic.
Concerning the company’s goals, Rudy ardently stresses quality over quantity. “One of our main ideas is to grow slowly so that we continue to do everything right. We want to respect our current customers and continue to exceed their expectations.” With such emphasis being placed on customer satisfaction, it is hard to imagine that Rudy’s Exotic Mushrooms will do anything but thrive in the future.

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