Above:Eder Valle holding one of his creations Center:A watermelon
carving at the Latino Professionals Association event
Right:Valle’s signature apple swans
By Jonathan Gramling
When Eder Valle’s parents immigrated to the United States, they became almost instant entrepreneurs in order to stay alive and raise their
children. And do they took to selling fresh fruit at the exit ramps from the LA areas abundant super highways. They worked seven days per
week and had yet to learn the English language. But like any budding entrepreneurs, they hung on and looked for a way to make their lives
“My dad bumped into someone and he actually moved from selling oranges and stuff on the highway exits to being a caterer,” Valle, owner of
Artesian Fruit said. “Within that industry, he met someone who used to make apple swans. My dad was very curious. And he picked up on it.
The caterer would do garnishes for plates and some of them would have apple swans. He was very curious about how to make them. So the
guy showed him how to do it. And he would bring them home. We were little at the time and we thought they were cool.”
But as the son of an immigrant, Valle did all of the right things to get his slice of the American Dream. Valle performed well in school and
earned a full-ride to UW-Madison as a member of the first Posse cohort from the LA area. Valle studied hard at UW-Madison and earned a
degree in chemistry and then landed a job at Forest Products Laboratory as a chemical research technician. He was earning good money, but it
wasn’t enough and he wanted to do more.
Valle wanted increased responsibility at Forest Products Laboratory, but there weren’t any positions open. His supervisory told him frankly that
he might have to look outside the company to advance.
“My brother and I were going to the mall in November 2012,” Valle recalled. “And we went to Dick’s Sporting Goods on the east side. I said to
my brother, ‘You know what, I’m going to run this place in the next six months.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, right. You are so full of it.’ That’s November
2012. 2013 comes along and February is when the Kohl Center has their Job Expo. I went there and met the people at Dick’s Sporting Goods
and started working there by March. I was still working my full-time job and working at Dick’s as a shoe salesman. Then basically by May, I
was promoted as a sales manager. And I got to travel to corporate and train. Within the two years, I was actually opening stores, traveling to
different parts of the state to open brand new stores and training cashiers and people how to do their jobs. But within those two years, I
realized that I was living in hotels for eight months and time had flown by so fast that I was like, ‘I’m going to blink again and then it’s going to
be five years.’”
Although they offered him a sizable raise to stay on, it wasn’t Valle’s passion. He wanted more. So he quit and was fortunate to immediately get
rehired by Forest Products Laboratory.
But it still wasn’t enough. And then as he was purchasing some fancy chocolate-covered strawberries and realized how much he paid for
them, an epiphany came to Valle. He thought he could do this as he thought back to his father’s catering business and apple swans. The idea
for Artesian Fruit was born.
“We were going to elevate it to the next level,” Valle said about what his parents did when he was a child. “It couldn’t just be apple swans. I
had to be customized. It had to create an emotional reaction in our clients. So we practiced for about a year and a half. Literally, I would spend
hours watching videos. ‘How are they making this leaf happen? How is this even possible?’ And then one day, I made a mistake. I tell people
this is a mistake that I repeat every day. For some reason, that little error, that little turn of the knife really evolved the whole process. Before,
we were so cautious not to go deep into the melon. And one day — I think I was just stressed out — I went deeper and then I curved it. And it
came out perfect. I was like, ‘Wow, I know what to do now.’ And we started doing it that way. With superficial cuts, you only get hard greens or
hard whites or hard reds. But with deeper cuts, you get a gradual transition, which gives it a better appeal.”
In April 2016, Valle opened up Artesian Fruit for business. And his business has flourished through incredibly hard work and some good
fortune and some just plain luck.
Valle’s day job at Forest Products Laboratory afforded him to have a flexible schedule and his supervisors were okay with that. Valle works on
Artesian Fruit on Wednesday and during non-work hours. In a way of giving back, his mother and father now work in the business along with a
brother and a friend.
And then Valle got a call in October 2016 that kicked things to the next level.
“We got a call from a guy who said, ‘Hey, there’s a commercial,” Valle said. “’You can apply. If you win, you’ll get a free commercial.’ I was
like, ‘Sure, it’s an opportunity. If anything, I’ll learn how to pitch my idea better.’ I got there and they said, ‘Guys, it’s not a commercial. It’s going
to be a TV show.’ I thought it was going to be a little PBS commercial with my hands maybe and the watermelon design. They were like, ‘No,
you’re going to pitch your idea to moguls.’ We asked who the moguls were. They said, ‘One of the moguls is Peter, the president of the
Milwaukee Bucks. And another guy Jeremy is president of Bright Star, a start-up company.’ I got really nervous. ‘I have to practice my pitch.’
There was a long line of people interviewing and they were only going to pick 12 people. I was thinking that I didn’t have a shot, but I thought,
‘Why not? Let them say no to me versus me saying no to myself.’ I pitched the idea and they fell in love with it. And October comes around and
we are filming our TV debut on Channel 12 in Milwaukee. I was really nervous when that happened. That gave us a lot of exposure and it gave
me more confidence. And it actually narrowed my focus in terms of what markets we wanted to go into afterwards. It was a good experience.”
For now, Artesian Fruit operates out of the FEED Kitchen on Sherman Avenue where Valle rents kitchen space. Their primary customers are
corporations and hotels.
“We thought about going into retail, but the retail market is a different beast,” Valle said. “The centerpieces will last 3-4 days, so hotels really
like them for that reason. They can order it for Friday, get it Friday morning and then showcase it throughout the entire weekend at their buffet
tables, registration tables and so forth. They really, really like them. Our craft is mostly focused for special events. You see this at the high-end
hotels and performing arts businesses. Each centerpiece goes for $140 and up depending on complexity. We also do wedding banquet tables.
Those come with four centerpieces, a chocolate fountain and platters that are designed to look like art as well. It’s always the centerpieces.
For weddings and corporate events, we do the table buffet.”
It’s been cool to work with his mom and dad. Due to them working seven days a week when he was a kid, Valle never got the chance to talk
with them or get to know them. All of that has changed now as they laugh and talk while they prepare their fruit designs.
While fulfilling the American Dream of his parents, Valle has also successfully scratched that entrepreneurial itch that allowed his parents to
survive. Life has come full circle. It has been a delicious undertaking as Valle continues to fulfill his American Dream.
For more information about Artesian Fruit, visit their Facebook page or www.artesianfruit.com
Eder Valle and Artesian Fruit Named the
Latino Chamber’s Business of the Year
Upscaling a Family Enterprise