PHILADELPHIA — After years of struggle, wholesalers on the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market are finally doing business out of the long-planned terminal market.
The doors officially opened for business June 5.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world seeing the accomplishment we made in this market,” said Jimmy Storey, former terminal association president and president and owner of Quaker City Produce Co.
Storey said all of the leaders involved in the process did a commendable job.
“We have great satisfaction being here. We went through a lot,” said Richard Nardella, chief executive and financial officer of Nardella Inc.
In the early 2000s, Nardella and Storey started the long process of finding new terminal market facilities as the city’s aging and decrepit market proved incapable of meeting modern produce handling requirements.
While they wanted new facilities, many of the 26 wholesalers and their customers expressed concern that the new facility’s higher operating expenses would harm business.
Chip Wiechec, president of Hunter Bros. Inc., said those fears did not materialize.
“I think everyone was more concerned about the increase in rent and expenses,” he said. “Some thought product would be artificially inflated because of our increase in overhead costs. But the increases in some portions of our overhead were matched by some decreases in operating expenses and the streamlining of our operations.”
The improvements, such as maintaining consistent temperatures, have helped the handling of produce, said Mark Levin, co-owner of M. Levin & Co Inc.
“If nothing else, we’re making money because we have less shrink,” he said. “We’re losing fewer packages due to mishandling or weather conditions or lack thereof. ... It’s always 55 degrees. And will be the same today and in January.”
The operation provides numerous efficiencies for distributors and their customers, said Martin Roth, secretary-treasurer of Coosemans Philadelphia Inc.
“The customers love it because the product is being refrigerated at all times,” he said.
Roth said he had a small customer fearful of a more difficult new marketplace who nearly screamed that he’d retire before relocating his business to the new facility.
However, after two days of walking the floor and seeing how easy it is to back his truck into the docks and leave with his orders, the customer quickly changed his mind and now tells Roth that the operation makes produce handling “as easy as selling sliced bread.”
Leonard Klinghoffer, partner and president of Klinghoffer Bros. Inc., is considered the oldest living produce salesman working in the market.
Klinghoffer, 87, plans to retire later this year. He started working produce on the city’s old Dock Street market and later made the move to the older facility on Pattison and Packer avenues, which opened in 1959.
“This is a great facility,” Klinghoffer said. “There is plenty of parking for the trucks that come in and when the merchandise comes in, it stays well and goes out well. We didn’t have this with the older market which was modern when it opened.”
The new facilities bear no resemblance to the older market operations, said Mike Maxwell, president of Procacci Bros. Sales Corp. Chief executive officer and board chairman Joseph Procacci was one of the produce leaders who helped relocate terminal market operations.
“It’s a whole other world, like the 21st century vs. the 20th century,” Maxwell said. “The honeymoon period is over and we are becoming more and more familiar with the building every day.”