Celebrating Boston’s Black History: City Fresh Foods

BOSTON — Tens of thousands of meals come out of City Fresh Foods in Roxbury every day. The prepared foods company was just awarded a $17-million contract to provide meals for Boston Public School students. Co-owner Sheldon Lloyd admits, the contract is a bear but tells Boston 25 News, he’s used to hard work.

“Growing up, I had a landscaping company early on and I was a tennis player. So when I was 13 or 14, I kind of had to be organized and set up a practice; schedules. And then I would do my landscaping around that and then play matches on the weekends,”' says Llyod.

He was born in Boston and raised in Sharon with his brother Glynn who took over the landscaping business when Lloyd went to Boston University.

“It was international. There were a lot of students, it was lots of money. It was very competitive. So I think that you know, it shaped me to want to maybe have a little bit more than what my parents had,” Lloyd said.

From there, Lloyd chose finance and life at a desk instead of mowing lawns. But he says it didn’t last long.

Eventually, a friend had an idea for a cookie company that Lloyd says, was way ahead of its time.

“A cookie company that was an educational, cultural product,” says Lloyd. “And the message was, you had white chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate. And no matter what, you were the same on the inside. You were different on the outside. A little bit about the culture. We went out to these, you know, the Barneys and the Macy’s, the upscale stores. And they loved it!”

Lloyd says it was a hit at the time but didn’t have large-scale success. He says he found that by coming home to Boston and City Fresh-- just a start-up at the time.

“It came from teaching folks in the community about business. I started in a classroom, graduated to a market, selling produce to a catering company, then to a storefront where the mayor came down to bless the kitchen. One of the big agencies called and said, Hey, can you feed our seniors? They want to eat the food they grew up with. So we started doing home-delivered meals,” Lloyd said.

City Fresh outgrew three buildings. And in spite of their success, Lloyd says when they went to purchase their second building, barriers too often faced by black companies proved a challenge.

“It was only, like, $18,000. We spent four years in business. Then you had to renovate it. We cannot get the money from it back. So we had to go to venture capital, folks, community venture capital folks, to get the money. We paid back double the money on that,” Lloyd said.

He noted, finding contractors of color to do the renovation work has been another challenge.

“The one in the building we’re building across the street. Just even getting minority contractors for us to fill that bit has been extremely challenging. There aren’t enough,” Lloyd said.

That’s why he says City Fresh offers employees, almost all from in and around Boston and people of color, a stake in the company. His message to young would-be entrepreneurs of color: City Fresh’s doors are open -- to learn, to ask questions, and make connections.

And be brave.

“Persist and you got to stick your hand out, you know, and you got to meet people, take the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone,” said Lloyd

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