The extremely cold mid-December weather in the U.S., with frosts in California’s citrus belt and bitter cold in Chicago, caused concern about California’s winter navel orange supply and temporarily slowed trading in the Windy City.

Several local customers wanted to come to the Chicago International Produce Market the morning of Dec. 10 but couldn’t get their trucks started, said Greg Mandolini, president of Mandolini Produce Co. Inc., Chicago.

Meanwhile, several inbound trucks from growing regions were delayed by snow and black ice in transit, he said.

“Now you have all the outbound stuff going out west that is going to make their appointments. It is going to have a snowball effect,” he said.

The zero-degree cold, which was rated at minus 11 with the wind chill factor taken into effect, also made talk of enclosing the docks at the Chicago International Produce Market sound more attractive, Mandolini said.

“They keep talking about retrofitting the front docks with overhead doors, and boy when we get some days like this it sounds like a splendid idea,” he said.

Enclosing the front docks could protect, buyers, staff, product and save energy, he said.

“I’ve got to think it wouldn’t take a long time to recoup some of that investment in getting this closed off,’ he said.

As much as he likes looking out from the market and seeing blue sky and the Willis Tower, he said the idea of an enclosed front dock sounds better and better.


Citrus concerns

While local trading was temporarily slowed by the frigid weather in mid-December, the business implications of the cold weather were mainly related to citrus costs, he said.

“For our company, we’re waiting for the assessment from California as to the extent of the damage with the cold snap and how it is impacted on citrus, primarily navel oranges and secondarily for us the clementines and the lemons. With growers reportedly spending more than $15 million on frost protection so far, recouping costs associated with the crop will mean higher prices, Mandolini speculated.


Dominick’s a ‘fixture’

Relating to the big news in the Chicago market, the exit of Dominick’s from the area is both exciting and sad, Mandolini said.

“They have been a fixture here in the Chicago area for years. It is sad to see them closing their doors,” he said.

With a variety of other retailers interested in Dominick’s locations, much is still to be determined about the future of closed Dominick’s stores.

With the exit of Dominick’s from Chicago, Mandolini said he expects business from independent retailers to increase.

The expansion in the number of Mariano’s stores could potentially warrant a new distribution center by Roundy’s in the Chicago region. A development like that would increase Chicago wholesaler access to that chain, he said.