Courtesy CT Fresh Inc.Mixed squash bins at CT Fresh Inc. in Stamford, Conn. The wholesaler combines different varieties of squash on special order for retail customers, owner Paul Ryan said.Produce dealers in Hartford, Conn., say competition for customers would be keen enough, even if their home market wasn’t surrounded by two giants.
New York is about 118 miles southwest of Hartford, and Boston is about 100 miles to the northeast.
Produce vendors say they compete well with rivals in the two larger markets. FreshPoint Connecticut LLC, a Hartford-based subsidiary of Houston-based broadliner Sysco Corp., has customers in a five-state region, said Ken Yandow, president of FreshPoint Connecticut.
“We’ve got a large enough organization that we’re able to service a large geographic area, and whether we originate out of Boston, New York or out of Brattleboro, Vt., it really doesn’t matter,” he said.
Regionalization is the key to success in that business model, he said.
“We’re actually shipping product back into Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, just as companies coming out of Boston and New York are doing the same thing,” he said.
Proximity to Boston and New York does present unique challenges, however, said Kyle Herchenroder, a salesman with M&M Farm Produce Inc., Hartford.
“Basically, we have to be close to market prices at Hunts Point and the Chelsea markets,” he said, referring, respectively, to terminal markets in New York and Boston.
Hartford’s position between the two major markets is a positive, said Al Parziale, president of Tinarose Produce LLC, which operates on the Connecticut Regional Produce Market, Hartford.
“It’s good because you are in the middle of New York and Boston, because there’s a direct line between New York and Boston, so to speak,” he said.
That opens those two markets to Hartford-based suppliers, Parziale said.
“You also have the competition coming in from New York and Boston, which are bigger markets, so it’s a bittersweet deal there,” he said.
Hartford’s terminal market, which has 12 vendors, is smaller than the facilities in New York and Boston, but it suits tenants’ needs, Parziale said.
“There’s limitations, but it works, and Connecticut’s a small state, too,” he said.
Paul Ryan, president of CT Fresh Inc., Stamford, Conn., said he competes with rivals in the bigger cities by filling a niche others don’t.
“I do things a little differently. I sell bins of cauliflower and do mixed bins of squash,” he said.
CT Fresh buys squash in bulk volumes and assembles bins containing different colors and varieties, which Ryan describes as “a boutique” approach.
“The big guys really don’t have this stuff, and then we also do the local produce.
Ryan also said service makes a difference.
“Mainly, we’re seven days a week, and the edge we have is the service,” he said.
Ryan said his company also has supplies ready when local stores and restaurants come up short.
“We’re finding a lot of these guys are short on product, and they don’t know what to do so now they’re calling us and now giving us a little more business to keep us in tow with them, so there’s a little mix for service and bringing a little local produce into this area,” Ryan said.
Elisabeth Granoff, a co-owner of G&A Wholesale Fruit & Produce, New Haven, Conn., said she doesn’t worry about competitors from New York or Boston.
“There will always be competition in any business,” she said.