Recent improvements to the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market are helping distributors remain competitive and in compliance with food safety rules.
The market’s manager has also received recognition for her management of the facility.
The Maryland Food Center Authority, which owns and operates the Jessup, Md.-based produce market and the Maryland Wholesale Seafood Market, recently replaced the produce terminal’s original dock canopies.
The project involved cleaning, sandblasting and repainting the dock canopy structures and roofs of the two market buildings.
The $1.2 million project was being finished in early June and was conducted while wholesalers continued business with the construction only necessitating small operational modifications, said Rose Harrell, the authority’s director of facilities.
In addition to the canopy replacement project, dock doors and door frames were upgraded, she said.
Over the summer, the market plans to upgrade both building’s rear docks through repainting and other work.
As there is less infrastructure in the back of the buildings, the project isn’t expected to be as involved as the main dock areas, Harrell said.
The improvements follow replacement of both buildings’ roofs last year.
During the construction, tenants Edward G. Rahll & Sons Inc., Sudanos Produce LLC, and the Tony Vitrano Co., were undergoing final auditing for Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point and Food Safety Modernization Act certification, Harrell said.
Coosemans D.C. Inc., had earlier completed most of the certifications it needed but because of the imports and other activities, needed additional certification, she said.
“Appearance means a lot and obviously, it’s critical to maintain the structure of the building, get it cleaned and keep it looking good,” Harrell said. “While the tenants are responsible for the interior, this has been some of the big effort projects we’ve been doing. This is all part of our big plan to raise the standards of the market a couple of levels.”
Harrell is responsible for the development and supervision of the authority’s three properties and the agency is designing a truck washing and fuel depot for exclusive use of produce and seafood market tenants.
On a parcel of land behind the seafood market, the authority is also planning to construct a commercial kitchen and a farmers market.
Plans are being developed for the facilities, but Harrell said the 70,000-square-foot kitchen is being designed to host culinary education and promote local foods.
In late March, the National Association of Produce Market Managers recognized Harrell as “Market Manager of the Year.”
During the 68th convention in New York, the Columbia, S.C.-based group elected Harrell as first vice president.
She said she was surprised by the award.
“It was a big honor for me to receive that award,” Harrell said. “The people that have preceded me with that honor are tremendous and great market managers. To even be considered by my market manager peers is something I can’t explain.”
Harrell’s award shows how the market tries to remain up-to-date, said Tony Vitrano, president of the Jessup-based Tony Vitrano Co.
“They do a good job,” he said. “Not that they’re getting things done immediately but they work on one project at a time. The improvements they make, like with the canopy and upgrading pest control, those will be good for everyone.”
Harrell, who has worked for the Maryland Food Center Authority since 1993, was promoted to market manager in 2008 and in 2013 was named director of facilities.
Harrell began as an administrative assistant for the seafood market’s offices and became an assistant to the authority’s deputy director when market management was consolidated in 1995.
She later advanced to projects administrator.