Atlanta distributors move produce throughout the South

06/21/2013 10:18:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Wholesalers on the Atlanta State Farmers Market in Forest Park, Ga., don’t limit their shipments of produce to customers in Atlanta.

Distributors service retail and foodservice customers throughout the South and some are enlarging their customer service footprint.

Forest Park-based Phoenix Wholesale Foodservice Inc., and its sister company, Collins Bros. Corp., distribute throughout the Southeast and are delivering produce to more areas of south Georgia and Alabama.

In the past, Phoenix Wholesale trucked produce through most of Georgia but is now expanding into more areas of the state, said David Collins III, president.

The companies distribute to Birmingham, Ala., and have added customers in Montgomery, Ala.

The distributors used to truck produce primarily to customers closer to the Alabama-Georgia border region, but are moving farther into the state.

Collins characterizes the region’s produce economy as steady.

“We are seeing some growth with emerging markets,” he said. “It’s not huge growth right now but we are seeing opportunities. We’re seeing growth in the market with some startups that maybe over the last two years put breaks on things. They’re getting the green lights on things and we’re seeing new projects. Atlanta is ready to get off the catnip and get this party started.”

Phoenix also distributes to customers in Chattanooga, Tenn., as well as into western portions of South Carolina.

Nickey Gregory Co. Inc. in Atlanta trucks produce from one end of the Southeast to the other.

In 2011, it opened a distribution center in Miami and services south Florida retail and foodservice customers within 200 miles of its southern hub.

Nickey Gregory, president and owner, said the company’s Florida expansion is working well.

From Atlanta, Nickey Gregory distributes produce to customers within a 750-mile radius.

The wholesaler distributes into Alabama, Mississippi and into eastern Louisiana, covering customers in Baton Rouge, La., and New Orleans.

“The Southeast has always been a strong retail market not only because of the chains in Georgia, but because of all the chains outside of the state, the ones in Birmingham and Greenville,” Gregory said.

“We can all hit those cities on the same day, if someone needs product.”

Coosemans Atlanta Inc. distributes up to 650 items to customers within a 250-mile radius of Atlanta.

The specialties purveyor has broadened its product line to include more mainstream items to counter diminishing specialty produce sales, said Brian Young, vice president.

“On specialties, we take care of any request retailers want, whether that be pomegranates or stone fruit,” he said.

“For the white-tablecloth restaurants, we provide them baby carrots, white turnips, edible flowers, orchids, the list goes on. Anything doing with oddity or colorful sizes, we try to have what chefs are looking for.”

Coosemans distributes to customers south to the Georgia-Florida border as well as into Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Athena Farms in Forest Park deliberately limits its distribution to the greater Atlanta metropolitan region.

The foodservice distributor services upscale and fast-casual restaurants, caterers, hotels, country clubs and other customers throughout the city.

“That’s been one of the secrets to our success,” said Robert Poole, junior partner and vice president of sales.

“We don’t have to go everywhere. We kind of pick and choose where we deliver. Sometimes you have to learn how to say no.”



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