Workers pack grape tomatoes at Anthony Marano Co.
Workers pack grape tomatoes at Anthony Marano Co.

It may not be as trendy of a formula as local produce, but the Anthony Marano Co. has a simple philosophy about moving its business forward.

“We are keeping our head down and trying to keep our customers happy and do the right thing for our customers,” said Damon Marano, director of business development for Chicago-based Anthony Marano Co. “If we do that, we will be fine.”

Marano said the company aims to support its Chicago-area retailers, whether they are chains or mom-and-pop stores. He said the exit of Dominick’s from Chicago may result in a mixture of retailers taking over those stores. That could be positive for business growth in the next year, he said.

Most of the company’s business is within 150 miles, but Marano said it goes out as far as 400 miles.

The company is open seven days a week and 24 hours a day, if necessary, he said.

“Most of the independent people shop by us,” said Anton Marano, vice president of sales.

Anton Marano said the Chicago economy is straddling the space between thriving and struggling.

“I don’t think anybody is doing fantastic, but I don’t think anybody is starving,” he said.


Firmer markets

The markets have been better for the Chicago wholesale market this year, Damon Marano said.

“It seems like growers are planting a little bit less, and markets have been more firm in general than they have been in the past,” he said.

Whether that reduced output is related to labor shortages is hard to know, but Damon Marano said he thinks the lower volume because of reduced planting has been making a dramatic difference in the marketplace.

“You don’t have a lot of sloppy markets,” he said. “Markets move up and down, but you don’t have sloppy markets where you have to give stuff away,” he said.

“It has been good because it allows produce people to be produce people.”


Higher prices

The uptick in prices is notable for several high-volume commodities.

U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics reveal average wholesale price for romaine lettuce from January through November this year in the Chicago market averaged $23.73 per carton, up from $18.38 per carton in 2012.

For apples, the average wholesale price of $37.88 per carton for January through November in Chicago was up from the average wholesale price of $35.77 per carton for all of 2012.

Likewise, average wholesale tomato prices for January through November 2013 in Chicago were $16.32 per carton, up from an average wholesale price of $13.28 per carton for all of 2012, according to the USDA.