But the industry soon learned that people were not eating out as much, or they were “opting for mac and cheese versus a nice, healthy salad.”
“We’re just not seeing the same business that we were in the past,” Weisfeld said.
Although melons sales have been good at Pura Vida Farms in Brea, Calif., overall business has been “fairly quiet across multiple commodities,” said partner Wes Liefer.
People are saving and watching where they spend their money, he said.
Meanwhile, transportation and other costs are on the rise, creating higher retail prices.
“It’s a very difficult business right now,” he said. “It’s a tough situation for everybody — producers, retailers and truckers.”
Also contributing to the woes of the major produce houses are small stalls and docks surrounding the market that may or may not comply with regulatory codes, Cantor said.
“They carry everything we carry,” he said, and they “are taking away a lot of business from this market.”
Weisfeld said he’s managed to stay around by keeping overhead down and running a lean company.
The firm’s seven employees handle $15 million worth of product, he said, a feat some say is “borderline remarkable.”
“We can run about as cheaply as anybody in the city,” he said.
Wholesalers are going to have to face reality, Wilder said.
“The retailer business isn’t going to increase if you’re a wholesaler/distributor on the market,” she said. “You’re going to have to pursue other types of business and diversify — or become specialized.”
That is something that’s doable.
“Here in the L.A. market, there are so many options,” she said.