SAN FRANCISCO — After more than six years of planning, the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market in mid-September signed the paperwork needed to start a major expansion project that will ultimately enlarge it by 60%.
Many of the market vendors, who are bursting at the seams, said they can’t wait for the additional space.
“It’s going to be good, but it’s going to take too long to get done, said a smiling David Camarda, a co-owner of North Bay Produce. “It’s like they can’t rebuild it fast enough.”
Scott Salisbury, a produce industry veteran and partner in S&L Wholesale Produce, said the market expansion proposal also brought people together.
“We focused on a common good,” he said. “Merchants have always been very supportive of the market, which I think is an anomaly to this market. It gives us a chance to gather as a group, as merchants, and make decisions and look at really how things will affect this market.”
New facilities should draw new customers and new vendors to the market, Salisbury said.
Stanley Corriea Jr., president of Stanley Produce Co. Inc. and president of the merchant association, said he’s among the tenants with too little space.
But it’s a good problem since it reflects on a thriving business, he said. In fact, Corriea runs his wholesale business out of one stall and his delivery business out of a stall further down the dock.
Jack Pizza, owner of Washington Vegetable Co. and past merchant association chief financial officer, pointed to the market’s vibrancy as the impetus behind the expansion.
“This market’s doing really well right now,” he said. “I think we have some forward thinking merchants as far as the product lines they carry. I think we’re very customer friendly. We need to make sure the customer has a good experience getting in and out of here fast.”
Pizza, who said he was in the process of obtaining food safety certification, said more modern facilities should make complying easier.
Bob Pizza, owner of What A Tomato Produce Co., said the expansion also should better position the 138-year-old market for the future.
“All of the bigger wholesalers down here do need more space,” he said. “If it all goes the way it’s supposed to, we should be good for the next 50 years or so.”
Construction set to begin
The three-phase project will ultimately add 200,000 square feet to the market’s existing 300,000-square-foot footprint, said Michael Janis, market general manager. It also will rebuild and modernize existing structures as well as reroute a street that currently cuts the market in half and creates safety issues.