Every day, about 11,000 sandwiches, salads, and other prepared meals make their way to 55 Duane Reade locations across Manhattan. The homegrown chain of pharmacies, which has locations all throughout the five boroughs, has been hard at work completely revamping their approach over the past couple of years, from new store layouts to a better food selection, and the man behind their fresh food is Elliot Fread, CEO of Long Island City-based Bimmy’s, the tri-state area's largest gourmet wholesale and catering company. Every day, he sends foods including sandwiches, wraps, green salads, grain salads, side salads, hummus, tapenade, cream cheese, salsa, quiche, dips, and other prepared foods to the expanding roster of locations, and —oh yeah — he also claims to have invented the wrap. We chatted with Fread about that claim, as well as the difficulties of convincing folks to buy fresh food at the pharmacy.
The Daily Meal: You claim you invented the wrap, but have you heard that none other than Bobby Valentine also claims to have invented it?
Elliot Fread: Perhaps he did, I wasn’t aware. When I was exploring the option of opening up my own food business, I was 29 and dating a Lebanese woman who introduced me to Syrian pita bread. I was always on the run and would make myself lunch to go from a piece of round, thin pita with turkey slices, pickles, and a dash of Russian dressing. I’d then roll up the bread with the ingredients and take it with me on the road for easier consumption. I then thought that this could be something really interesting, so I came up with the concept of hand-rolled sandwiches, and opened my first hand rolled sandwich shop in the East Village.
How did you first get involved with Duane Reade?
Duane Reade contacted me from a referral from a few businessmen I had previously worked with in the food business.
What's your personal favorite offering that you provide for them?
There’s too many to choose one! However, some of our best sellers are the chicken salad sandwich and prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and a fig spread sandwich along with the fajita wrap, the Cajun wrap, the falafel wrap and the chicken Caesar wrap. We also have some seasonal favorites that we offer all year ‘round due to demand, such as the Turkey Thanksgiving wrap.
How do you get around the stigma of people being a little bit wary of buying fresh food at the drug store?
There is only one way to prove it, and that’s by offering fresh, quality food made daily. We are committed to serving the freshest ingredients and sourcing all of it locally whenever possible. We work with bakeries in Brooklyn who provide us with bread, wraps, etc., daily. We also only have a two-day shelf life for each of our offerings, which ensures that we are providing the customers with only the freshest and best ingredients. We also work with artisanal ingredients and products, along with anti-bioticfree meats created just for Bimmy’s.
What would you say to people who are wary of buying fresh food at Duane Reade?
Try it, you’ll Love it! If you knew that all of these ingredients were fresh and made daily, you may think otherwise. We provide Duane Reade with the DeLish brand of sandwiches, salads, and prepared meals that will never be anything less than the best quality.
What happens to the food that isn't purchased?
Bimmy’s is committed to giving back to the community, and donates all un-sold products to homeless shelters throughout New York City.
Any other details or cool facts you'd like to mention?
It’s exciting to provide quality fresh food to a drug store and change people’s perception. I’m a third-generation chef and entrepreneur in the food business. My grandfather was one of the first celebrity chefs in Canada, and in 1954, he hosted a television cooking show titled Hans in the Kitchen. That’s when I knew a career in food would be my future.
I am also a strong proponent of giving back to the community, and as a result, Bimmy’s hires second chance individuals and teaches them communication skills and conflict resolution management, all while supplying these individuals with jobs in the workforce.
Finally, the name Bimmy’s came from a nickname that was given to me when I worked at a well-known Catskills resort. Bimmy’s received the Top Entrepreneur Award from Crain’s New York Business in June of 2009, and is USDA & SQF Certified.