Jon Steffy, director of sales for Four Seasons Produce Inc., shows off some of the company's product.
Jon Steffy, director of sales for Four Seasons Produce Inc., shows off some of the company's product.

In their fourth year of distributing produce from the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, distributors say the modern distribution facilities are helping increase business.

Wholesalers also report strong produce demand and movement in Philly and their distribution territory throughout the Northeast.

After a disastrous winter where multiple storms closed roads, halted distribution and discouraged shoppers from visiting stores and restaurants, distributors enjoyed prosperous spring and summer business.

“If it weren’t for the atrocious winter we had this year, we would likely be ahead this time of the year in volume and business,” said Mark Levin, co-owner of Philadelphia-based M. Levin & Co. Inc.

“We came out of the winter pretty much unscathed and have picked up business since then.”

The company has seen many variable economies since its 1906 founding.

Levin and others agree the region is experiencing solid produce demand.

“I think this city is on the upswing,” Levin said. “People are buying new cars and new homes. The housing industry is getting better, and they’re building more now than they did in the past three years.”

After the first three years of the market’s opening, distributors report the facility is fulfilling its role in helping expand produce distribution throughout the populous Northeast.

The modern cooling operations also help improve product quality, said Todd Penza, salesman with Philadelphia-based Pinto Bros. Inc.

“We are able to handle more products in this market and the product is holding up better, which makes it so we can distribute it farther,” he said.

“The Northeast is very active in produce movement. It’s busy. The Philadelphia market is one of the largest markets. There is a large amount of produce to be bought and sold here.”

Market distributors say the newer facilities are helping increase business.

“The produce economy here is good,” said John Vena Jr., president of Philadelphia-based John Vena Inc.

“We’ve seen positive growth and our operation is enjoying double-digit growth.”

Vena, market board treasurer and chairman of the facility’s marketing committee, said the upgraded facilities are helping attract more business.

“I think everyone would report positive growth numbers for 2014,” he said. “Even though we have a big investment in this facility and our operational costs are higher, we have found ways to overcome those higher costs and everyone that’s here is making money. The business is there.”

Philadelphia and the large Northeastern market enjoy a thriving economy, distributors report.

“This city is business-friendly and it’s not as cash-strapped as some other metropolitan areas,” said Chip Wiechec, president of Hunter Bros. Inc., Philadelphia.

“There are opportunities to partner with governments, like with this market facility. Philadelphia has always recognized the importance of business. The city hasn’t had the bumps in the road you hear about with other cities, like Detroit.”

Mike Maxwell, president of Philadelphia-based Procacci Bros Sales Corp., agrees.

“We have a strong economy in the Northeast,” he said. “We’re selling a lot of products and the ports have the holding facilities and lots of cold storage capacity. All of the infrastructure is here.

“This area is a huge portion of the country’s economy. Within a 10 hours drive of here, one can deliver to nearly half the nation. I think the economy is getting better. We see it in sales every day.”

Ephrata, Pa.-based Four Seasons Produce Inc. distributes to retail and wholesale customers throughout the Northeast.

“We have been experiencing some great double-digit growth and success across the distribution region,” said Ron Carkoski, president and CEO.

“There are so many people and so many opportunities for business here. We are seeing very healthy growth, especially at retail. The opportunity exists for a lot of business and a lot of segments in the business.”