The state of the economy has had a mixed effect on produce sales in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. region.
On one hand, some distributors say the recession has slowed movement. Others, however, say their ace in the hole remains the District of Columbia, whose adjoining counties enjoy the nation’s highest per-capita income.
Lolo Mengel, co-owner and general manager of Coosemans D.C. Inc., Jessup, Md., said the region has fared well.
“We are a little insulated compared to others,” she said.
“We know we will still have demand even if the price has been increased. The demand is still there and people are going to eat. For our area there hasn’t been this severe recession that has afflicted other areas of the country.”
The Mid-Atlantic region has fared the difficult economic times better than others, said Ross Foca, president of East Coast Fresh Cuts, a division of Savage, Md.-based Coastal Sunbelt Produce Co.
“This is a good place to be,” he said.
“It’s not recession-proof, but we’re backed by a lot of government jobs in the area. Many of the top household earning zip codes are in our very dense area. Over the past two years, business has been getting better, so the economy seems to be improving.”
Though distributors who serve eateries in the nation’s capitol characterize sales as strong, others say the region as a whole has been hurt.
“We are still facing tough economic conditions,” said Sal Cefalu, vice president of Jessup-based G. Cefalu & Bro. Inc.
“It’s one of those situations that for 30 years up until a few years ago, we were in really good economic conditions. Though we had some ups and downs, I don’t think anyone saw the conditions we’ve seen in the last couple of years. It’s affected things from one spectrum to the other end.”
Cefalu said collecting receivables remains a critical concern.
Tony Vitrano, president of the Tony Vitrano Co., Jessup, said the region’s economy remains solid.
“The Baltimore area has struggled a bit,” he said.
“There aren’t as many manufacturing jobs or corporate headquarter jobs as there used to be, but it’s still holding its own. Washington is a little better because of the government’s presence. The region itself is doing OK and overall this area is healthy.”
In Washington, D.C., distributors say produce sales remain strong.
“Business is still pretty brisk,” said Gus Pappas, president of Pete Pappas & Sons Inc., Washington, D.C.
“They say this is the only housing market that has increased 5%. For the average person living in an area like this, the costs of goods are more expensive and the federal government has started tightening its belts as well, so it sort of trickles down.”
Because unemployment hasn’t been as high as other parts of the U.S., the area of Washington, D.C., inside the Beltway has experienced some tangible growth over last year, said Roy Cargiulo, sales manager of Landover, Md.-based Keany Produce Co.
Cargiulo said the capitol city has experienced an increase in tourism.
Although Washington, D.C. has many government employees, those workers still have to pay for fuel to drive to work, said Dave Goodman, president of Jessup-based Sid Goodman & Co. Inc.
Goodman said many others in the area outside of the District of Columbia remain dogged by rising costs and high unemployment.