There’s a new fruit truck in Sioux Falls, and it’s getting some sour reviews.
For years, The Fruit Club delivered fresh produce to South Dakota. Last August, the USDA shut it down for two years, because the business owed $367,000 in unpaid bills.
The USDA also ordered Matthew Kleinsasser, who it refers to as the company’s principal, to step away from the produce business for at least a year.
Now, Irina Kleinsasser – who helped run the Fruit Club – is in charge of a new, larger business. According to its Facebook page, Fresh Farms, LLC hauls fruit, vegetables and meat to 48 states, including South Dakota.
KELOLAND News shot a video Monday in Sioux Falls at its warehouse. There are several trucks with the Fruit Club logo and also a sign by the door that says Fresh Farms.
Fresh Farms also runs a website with a familiar logo… and The Fruit Truck uses the same image and font as the Fruit Club.
My Fruit Truck Facebook pages in South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa have also changed the names of pages that used to belong to Fresh Farms and The Fruit Club.
While the Better Business Bureau lists Irina Kleinsasser as the owner, the company’s website says it’s a family owned business and lists Irina Kleinsasser as the manager and CEO.
The LLC’s attorney says Fresh Farms is owned by LLCs in different states. We found the South Dakota filing, and Fresh Farms is listed as delinquent because it didn’t turn in an annual report in 2019.
The site also says Fresh Farms bought customer lists from The Fruit Club and a Washington food delivery company that was known as Zaycon.
Fresh Farms is dealing with a flood of negative reviews, including an “F” from the Better Business Bureau. Many of the complaints are from customers who claim they paid for food that wasn’t delivered.
“The delivery date was either pushed back or they wouldn’t show up to the location or wait a couple of hours and no one ever came with the products they had ordered,” Kansas director of Better Business Bureau Denise Groene said.
We asked the Fresh Farm LLC’s attorney about the BBB rating. He says most of the complaints are related to Zaycon, which closed suddenly in June of 2018.
We went through 15 pages of reviews and more than 90 complaints. The first complaint was filed in May of 2019, three months after Fresh Farms announced it bought Zaycon’s client list and nearly a year after Zaycon went out of business.
Better Business Bureau investigators are also questioning whether it’s legal for Irina Kleinsasser to run Fresh Farms, LLC.
“Anytime a company shuts down a business and opens up under a new name, it’s definitely a red flag that the Better Business Bureau takes a look at, especially if a company is told by a government agency that they are no longer allowed to do business that’s something they need to be alerted of as well, so that way they can keep an eye out,” Groene said.
The business’ attorney says his client is compliant with USDA regulations because it hasn’t sold more than $230,000 worth of produce in a single year.
Matthew Kleinsasser also owns a Sioux Falls trucking business. It’s currently going through bankruptcy.
According to a filing, the company owes Irina Kleinsasser more than $200,000. KELOLAND News also talked with Fresh Farms LLC’s attorney via email, who answered our questions.
The Better Business Bureau gives Fresh Farms an “F” rating. What is your response?
“If you review the complaints leading to the “F” rating, you would notice that the complaints are, for the most part, related to Zaycon. When Zaycon was forced to shut down operations, there was an opportunity to acquire its customer list. Fresh Farms’ members purchased Zaycon’s and The Fruit Club’s customer lists to create Fresh Farms. My clients were surprised by the number of dissatisfied Zaycon customers that confused Fresh Farms with Zaycon,” Fresh Farms LLC attorney Bob Trzynka said.
In 2019, the USDA cited The Fruit Club for PACA violations. As a result, The Fruit Club was barred from operating in the produce industry until August 16, 2021. How is the Fresh Farms LLC different from The Fruit Club Inc., and are you legally selling produce in South Dakota and other states?
“Fresh Farms is in compliance with the applicable USDA regulations. Per 7 U.S.C. § 499a(b)(6), an entity selling perishable agricultural commodities is not considered to be a “dealer” subject to PACA licensure until its invoice costs exceed $230,000.00 in a calendar year. Fresh Farms has not yet reached that threshold but will do so when required,” Trzynka said.
On Fresh Farms LLC’s website, it says Fresh Farms LLC bought the customer list of the Fruit Club, Inc. Aren’t these two entities owned by a wife and husband respectively?
“No. Fresh Farms is owned by three different LLC’s, two of which are based out of state,” Trzynka said.
Can customers feel confident buying products from Fresh Farms LLC?
“It is unfortunate that any past issues with Zaycon have tainted consumers’ impressions of Fresh Farms,” Trzynka said.
A class action lawsuit has been filed against Fresh Farms LLC., claiming Fresh Farms LLC sent unsolicited text messages to Danyale Yarger. An attorney for the plaintiff says Fresh Farms LLC failed to respond to the lawsuit by the deadline, which was January 13th, 2020. What is your response?
“I first learned about the existence of this lawsuit today. My clients also only recently became aware of this lawsuit. Fresh Farms looks forward to clearing its name in this matter,” Trzynka said.