Merger highlights changes in state's produce landscape

10/19/2012 12:35:00 PM
Jim Offner

Recent ownership changes have taken place at a couple of Ohio’s longest-tenured produce suppliers.

In Columbus, Roth Produce Co. has merged with ProduceOne, based in Dayton, Ohio, and which has operated a location in Columbus for 10 years.

The venture, which took effect Sept. 24, involved a change in nomenclature, as Ben Roth’s 87-year-old wholesale operation became Roth ProduceOne.

The corporate merger includes ProduceOne’s Dayton location, but that operation continues under the established ProduceOne banner, said Erv Pavlofsky and Ben Roth, two of three partners in the deal.

The third principal is Gary Pavlofsky, who is president of the merged firm and manages the Dayton location. Erv Pavlofsky and Roth run the Columbus business.

Effective with the merger, ProduceOne moved its Columbus operation out of a 10,000-square-foot leased building into Roth’s 32,000-square-foot plant about 2 miles away, the partners said. The merged company has not yet decided what to do with ProduceOne’s old quarters in Columbus, Erv Pavlofsky said.

About 25 ProduceOne employees moved with their company, Erv Pavlofsky said.

The combined operation has more than 70 workers, he said.

It’s a melding of similar business cultures, Roth said.

“Their strength I considered our weakness and our strength I’d consider probably their weakness,” he said.

ProduceOne’s membership in the Pro*Act foodservice distribution group and, more importantly, its national accounts, give the Roth operation clout it didn’t have before, and Roth’s strength lies in servicing independent upscale restaurants in the Columbus area, Roth said.

“Their Pro*Act deal is (the) very strong marketing part of it, where we’re very strong in our white-tablecloth business, so we’ve come up with a very good platform to work from,” Roth said.

“The strength of ProduceOne’s national accounts, along with Ben’s strengths with independent restaurants made for a great marriage,” Erv Pavlofsky said.

Centrally focused

The merger is focused on central Ohio, where the companies each had similar buildings and customers, Pavlofsky said.

“We both feel Columbus continues to be a growing area, and being centrally located in the state of Ohio, we’ll continue to position ourselves for future growth for the produce business in Ohio for ProduceOne,” he said.

There are logistics considerations as well, and ProduceOne’s Dayton operation has functioned traditionally as a distribution center, Roth said.

“We put a lot of miles on trucks going to Dayton and Cincinnati every day, and they have a facility here, so it’s economics. But more important, it gives us a chance to really grow and make our brands very prominent,” he said.

Erv Pavlofsky said the companies won’t have to rely as heavily on Dayton, since the merged operations in Columbus will be “working as a self-contained operation.”

Roth said he is retaining all his 47 workers.

“Our company continues to grow and service Ohio, and our intention is definitely to add more jobs,” Erv Pavlofsky said, though he didn’t say how many.

With ProduceOne’s pre-existing partnership with Premier Produce in Cleveland, Roth ProduceOne enhances its statewide reach, Pavlofsky said.

“Our sales growth continues to be higher education and what’s happening in the markets, we continue to grow with local produce and sustainability, all things that are key initiatives with our company,” he said.

ProduceOne dates to 1998, the result of a merger of two Dayton companies, Mush and Sons Inc. and Niedhammer Produce.



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