In whatever form they take, whether retail or foodservice, the produce business is thriving in Boston, wholesalers say.
Vendors say there are a number of potentially viable niches to fill. For Mark Ruma, general manager of Ruma’s Fruit & Gift Basket World in Everett, Mass., it’s primarily retail.
“We do fill-ins when they run out of product,” he said in discussing trade with major chains.
Vegetables are the major revenue stream for Everett-based Community-Suffolk Inc., said Steven Piazza, president and salesman.
“We at Community specialize not in a full line, but the thing we do specialize in is vegetables in serious volume,” he said.
Major items for his company are carrots, potatoes, onions, celery, broccoli and lettuce, he said. Community-Suffolk has about a 50-50 split between retail and foodservice sales, Piazza said.
Among retail customers seen on the terminal market every day, Piazza said, there’s a resurgence of independent retailers.
“I think you’d have to reclassify it, but there’s a new independent out there,” he said.
Many are immigrants from Russia, Cambodia, Vietnam and other countries who have bought up smaller, independent grocery stores, Piazza said.
“They’re catering to local populations, local trends,” he said.
The newcomers are successful, he said.
“And, because they don’t have warehouses, they support the market daily,” he said.
Ken Cavallaro, treasurer for Chelea-based wholesaler John Cerasuolo Co. Inc., agreed the new breed of independents is excelling.
“Whether it’s Russians, Hispanics or Asians — whatever area they’re in, they seem to do well,” he said.
Hispanics and Asians are two of the larger groups.
It translates to sales for Coosemans Boston Inc., said Maurice Crafts, salesman.
“Business seems to be getting better,” he said. “We just recently started loading an extra truck out of (Los Angeles) to satisfy demand.”
New Bedford, Mass.-based Sid Wainer & Son focuses heavily on foodservice business, said Victor Simas, vice president of sales.
“We do a lot of colleges and universities and schools,” he said.
Tastes in that area can be eclectic, which is fine for Wainer & Son, which offers specialty items, Simas said.
“For colleges, most of them are basic, but a lot of them do offer a lot of events where they need specialty foods and those types of needs,” he said.