Washougal food business “has mushroomed” by Doug Flanagan

John Anderson didn’t set out to create one of the United States’ most prominent wholesale food distributors. He simply wanted to leave his job as a millworker in Bingen, Washington, just outside of White Salmon.

“It was a dead-end job, going nowhere,” Anderson said. “I dreaded it. I looked forward to Friday nights and hated Monday mornings.”

In 1982, Anderson started selling mushrooms that he had foraged from nearby forests to a traveling buyer, who then sold them to restaurants. Then Anderson started selling directly to a few eateries in Portland.

Two years later, he left his mill job and with his wife, Wanda, started Foods in Season (FIS), which has grown from a small operation run from the Andersons’ garage to an international company that sells products to some of the top restaurants and grocery chains in the country.

FIS now has 40 full-time employees and operates out of two large warehouses in the Port of Camas-Washougal’s industrial park in Washougal.

“The pioneers, they’re the ones that have the arrows in their backs,” Anderson said. “I think we are pioneers because back then it wasn’t even an industry. You didn’t have a team of buyers and a network of managers out there. It was just me and my wife alongside the road with our sign. The learning curve was the steepest in the early days.”