Produce demand favorable in Baltimore, D.C.

08/28/2013 01:41:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Unlike their counterparts in other regions, distributors in and around the nation’s capital report consistent and strong sales.

Wholesalers that truck produce to the many supermarkets, restaurants, institutions and other produce channels in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., region report favorable demand and business.

They say the region’s economy didn’t suffer as much as other areas, which were more dependent on manufacturing.

Edward G. Rahll & Sons Inc.Heirloom tomatoes on the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market in Jessup, Md., Distributors say the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. region has fared better than other areas. “The produce economy here is good, said Gus Pappas, president of Pete Pappas & Sons Inc. in Washington, D.C. “We are very busy. Business is good and rarely do we have a slow day.”

The region’s many government workers and contractors help keep the economy afloat a little better than many other metropolitan areas, distributors on the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market report.

“With the government cutbacks in spending, it could hurt us a little but we haven’t seen any dramatic effect of that yet,” said Tony Vitrano, president of the Tony Vitrano Co. in Jessup, Md. “We’re holding steady and maybe doing a little better.”

Business outside the immediate capital region remains strong for distributors including Jessup-based Lancaster Foods Inc., which distributes to retail warehouses throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

“Business is thriving outside of the Baltimore-D.C. region,” said Jerry Chadwick, Lancaster’s vice president of sales and marketing.

“The Baltimore and Washington, D.C., region as a whole has weathered the economic crisis and recession quite well. In this produce economy, sales have been very strong and we continue to expand our geographic reach.”

Lancaster distributes to supermarket chains with numerous divisions and warehouses from Maine to Florida.

Sales are humming for foodservice distributor Keany Produce Co. in Landover, Md.

 

Resurgence

A strong job market is attracting many young professionals, said Kevin Keany, president.

“There is good business in Washington, D.C., as well as the entire region,” he said. “There has been so much money on the side. Developers are starting to invest in this marketplace. There’s a real resurgence in the city. It’s been sort of a boom.”

 

Still recovering

For Sal Cefalu, owner and director of Jessup-based CGC Holdings, the parent company of G. Cefalu & Bro. Inc. and Capital Seaboard, produce sales remains challenging.

“The economy is good but not great,” he said in late July.

“People have gotten to the point to where if they have money, they’re not holding onto it as tightly as they did a few years ago. They’re trying to get back to normal if they have money and have a job. They are out there eating in restaurants and doing their activities.”

Cefalu said the region’s real estate picture is improving. He said prices are inching higher and owners that sat on many properties are beginning to market them.

Despite the cheers of a strong area economy, many still cite somewhat slower retail and foodservice traffic, said T.J. Rahll, operations manager of Edward G. Rahll & Sons Inc. in Jessup.

“It seems like everyone’s complaining a little on all ends, but I don’t think they’ve been too bad (business),” Rahll said.

“There’s a lot of retail competition in this area. It’s really vicious, the competitiveness around here in the produce industry.

“The foodservice jobbers have had a tougher time than many in the industry. We’re seeing a little more turnover in that end with people getting out of that business.”



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