Hurricane Sandy disrupts wholesaling, customers' operations

03/21/2013 03:35:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

NEW YORK — Hurricane Sandy left destruction in its wake in the immediate New York metropolitan area.

The late October storm ravaged areas of Long Island, Brooklyn, the Jersey Shore as well as Manhattan and cut power for a large portion of the metropolitan region, including New Jersey.

For the most part, distributors survived the storm but were more affected by stores that closed after the storm’s waters devastated shore regions.

Downed power lines and closed streets also made deliveries difficult.

Thomas Cignarella, president of Morris Okun Inc., said some stores saw 5 inches of water.

“There were certain areas you couldn’t get into, so we didn’t deliver there,” he said. “Everybody made their arrangements differently and were trying to salvage their businesses. You couldn’t do anything until ... the water receded.”

For RLB Food Distributors LP, West Caldwell, N.J., power outages and obstacles obstructed deliveries.

“People lost entire businesses, particularly in Brooklyn,” said Joe Granata, director of produce. “There are areas that were without power for 14 days.”

Although some Jersey Shore stores hadn’t reopened, Paul Kneeland, vice president of produce and floral for Kings Super Markets LLC, Parsippany, N.J., said most of the stores in the greater New York region returned to operation by mid-February.

The Hunts Point Terminal Market as a whole survived the storm, said market co-chairman Matthew D’Arrigo, vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc.

“It felt like there was only half a city able to buy produce for about a week,” D’Arrigo said. “The second week, when power returned to a good amount of the areas, it was a boom week ... as people restocked shelves and went back to normal.”

Ira Nathel, president and vegetable buyer of Nathel & Nathel Inc., said some of his workers lost their cars. .

Some of the workers at Morris Okun also lost their homes, Cignarella said.

Joel Panagakos, sales ambassador for J. Kings Foodservice Professionals Inc., Holtsville, N.Y., said the distributor has been working diligently to replace lost customers as many won’t rebuild.

Mike Muzyk, president of Baldor Specialty Foods Inc., Bronx, said Baldor helped distribute supplies to storm victims.

“Sandy took some of our customers and wiped them off the face of the earth,” Muzyk said. “Because a portion of our clientele never closes, such as hospitals ... we couldn’t close. We realized by Day 2 that many of our competitors couldn’t open. As some restaurants split orders with us, we got 100% of the business for a short window. It gave us a spike so the perishable product could be used.”



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