For nearly a century, Bush Brothers Provision Company has provided South and Central Florida, and a variety of international markets, with superior quality meats and exceptional customer service. This five-generation company takes great pride in building relationships and providing high-end hotels, restaurants and country clubs with artisan-quality, hand-selected beef, poultry and provisions. The president of Bush Brothers Provision Company, Harry Bush, and his son, Sales Manager Doug Bush, shared the journey from when the company was founded to their future plans to expand and grow their export division.
"The company was founded by John M. Bush, my great-great grandfather, and his son, Harry L. Bush," Doug said. "It basically started as a local meat market / grocery store. They were in the grocery business in Augusta, GA, before moving to South Florida in the early 1920s. My great-great grandfather was a very progressive guy. He saw an opportunity in Florida and moved his family."
From 1925 through the early 70s, growth was steady, but the business was primarily focused on the local South Florida market. The current president, Harry Bush, joined the company in 1975 followed shortly after by his brother Billy in 1978. Over the next twenty years, Bush Brothers Provision Company expanded its footprint beyond South Florida. In 1994 they acquired their USDA certification and took their products overseas. The latest generation of Bush Brothers, started coming on-board in 2006, starting with Doug Bush, followed by Jessica Bush, John Bush and eventually Curtis Bush.
Keeping a Competitive Edge
"Over the last 10 years, we've grown tremendously," Harry said. "Our exports are also up. We're growing, but we've resisted becoming a large company or being acquired and losing our 'mom and pop' feel. When I came to work for my father in '75, there were 20 small meat companies in South Florida. Today there are two. I think there's an appreciation for smaller meat companies. I like to think of us as an independent overgrown mom and pop business."
"When I started, there were seven or eight guys in this space," Doug said. "Like my dad said, today there are two, including us. Most have been consumed by national and international broad-line grocery distributors and other large corporations. Fortunately for us, there's been a surge in the popularity of farm-to-table and carefully sourced products. It's a reaction to people saying, 'Do I really want to buy my steaks from the same place I buy my mops and brooms?' The popularity of high-quality products is great for our business, but it's also challenging because customers still want low prices. It’s a fine balance between price-pressure and demand for artisan-quality, farm-to-table products. We're also trying to provide a consistent product from an inconsistent supply. That's definitely a challenge."
Bush Brothers operates almost exclusively in the food service space. They source their meats from high-quality suppliers from around the world and handle their own processing and distribution. Their high-end meats and provisions are sold to hotels, restaurants, yachts and country clubs. Bush Brothers sells to nearly all the Five Diamond Hotels in Florida and the Caribbean. Doug described several ways in which they set themselves apart from their competition.
"We're all about high quality and exceptional customer service," he said. "Everything we do has a personal touch. When customers call the office, they speak with a family member. We do custom cuts and everything is cut to order. That's our niche: custom work and special service for every customer."
Bush Brothers is powered by a team who includes office staff, drivers, meat cutters and a sales force. Over the last six years, Bush Brothers has placed a heavier emphasis on sales as they continue to focus on getting their niche product into the hands of specific customers. The company culture can be described as family-oriented. Staff is served breakfast and lunch on a daily basis, a tradition started with Harry's grandmother, and everyone is made to feel part of the family.
Notable Community Contributions
In terms of philanthropic activities and community involvement, Bush Brothers works with charities and non-profits that operate in the food industry. They actively support Palm Beach Harvest, a local non-profit that supports food banks and churches. They also work with The American Culinary Federation and support their efforts to work with local charities. They help support Meals on Wheels and support The Quantum House, a home at St. Mary's Hospital where families of children in need can stay and eat at no charge.
Operating in Florida, in particular South Florida, has been great for Bush Brothers Provision Company. "We benefit from receiving a lot of seasonal tourism in South Florida," Harry said. "Our product is not an everyday type item. Having seasonal tourism and high-dollar tourists in South Florida, Orlando and Naples is great for the products we offer. Our geographic location is also positioned very well for export to the Caribbean, Central and South America. Between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, you can ship in a timely manner to practically anywhere in the world."
What it Means to Be a Florida Companies to Watch Honoree
"To be honest, it was a surprising nomination," Doug said. "We were nominated by our local business development board. Most nominees are newer businesses. For us to be on the radar now is nice. We are definitely in a transition phase where the next generation is trying to take it to next level. Being recognized by someone else is motivating."
Harry added, "When I think about the business, I think about my dad and uncle. They would be so proud. We've come such a long way. We've always been a very conservative organization. To get this recognition is very nice. We might be one of the only 5th generation companies to be honored. We're certainly unique in that regard."
"We'd be remiss if we didn't thank our local business development board," Doug said. "We also have to thank our fathers, grandfathers and older generations for putting us in the position to take the business to the next level. They gave us our start. Lastly, none of this would be possible without the hard work from our dedicated team. They have the same goals we do. Without them, we have nothing."
Looking ahead, Bush Brother's wants to expand their regional distribution throughout Florida and continue to grow their international exports. As Doug shared, they're very well known in the South Florida Market, but they want to carry the brand name to other parts of the state and beyond.
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
What advice do Harry and Doug have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Sticking to doing the best job at what you do is the key to success," Doug said. "We try to make the best product in our niche space. It's also important to nurture your relationships with your customers. Don't try to be all things to all people. Focus on what's most important to keep your customers happy. We're friends with our customers, but that only goes as far as being able to meet their expectations."
Harry added, "It takes a lot of hard work. When I first came to work for my father, he said, 'You're going to work 70 to 80 hours per week'. He was right. You have to be willing to put in the time."