ST. LOUIS — With its recent move off the market, Sun Farm Foodservice has tripled its space.

In July, the distributor left the St. Louis Produce Market and relocated just a few blocks west, to the northwest corner of Ninth and Market streets.

Sun Farm moves off marketSun Farm swapped its 7,000 square feet on the market to about 21,000 at its new spot, which was formerly home to fellow distributor Front Row Produce, said John Pollaci, Sun Farm’s president.

That leaves lots of room to grow.

“We were kind of bursting at the seams,” Pollaci said. “We have plenty of room to grow, although everybody I’ve talked to said that when you move into a new warehouse, it gets filled quickly.”

Sun Farm also is able to add new salesmen and buyers with the additional space, Pollaci said.

The new building features five docks and a room with a garage door for smaller orders. The entire dock area will be climate-controlled to maintain cold-chain integrity, Pollaci said.

Sun Farm’s old facility had four docks, but only two were in use, Pollaci said.

“We’ll be able to check orders with a fine-tooth comb before they go out.”

Trucks will come in and out much more quickly in the new facility, and instead of handling one truck at a time, the company will be able to handle up to five.

Sun Farm has a fleet of nine trucks it runs on six established routes in the St. Louis area.

The facility features three 40x40-foot coolers and one 60x40-foot cooler. The additional space could lead to new repacking opportunities for Sun Farm, among other things.

“It should be a huge gain in efficiency for us,” Pollaci said. “We’ll grow just by being more efficient.”

Sun Farm made significant changes to the old Front Row building before moving in, Pollaci said. Walls were added in the office area to create spaces for salesmen, buyers, two executive offices, a conference room and other uses.

The “recycle/reuse” aesthetic was central to the design of the new office, Pollaci said. The doors to the two executive offices, for instance, are massive reclaimed barn doors, complete with the original metal tracks on which the doors slide.

In addition, the conference room table also was crafted out of reclaimed barn wood. The “legs” on which the table rests are actually restored packing crates kept in storage at Sun Farm for decades.

Sections of other crates have been combined in a collage that greets customers at the office’s front door, and vintage packing labels — also pulled from Sun Farm’s archives at its old home on the market — have been framed and are scattered on the walls throughout the new office.

Also featured on the inside is high-efficiency lighting, including motion-sensitive lights that turn on and off automatically depending on whether the room is occupied.

On the outside, meanwhile, the surface was repaved and a new fence installed.

Appearance is important, Pollaci said, as Sun Farm envisions its new facility as a place to bring local chefs and other existing or potential customers.

“More customers will be coming down here,” he said.

It’s no accident Sun Farm’s new home is only a long stone’s throw from its old one, Pollaci said.

“It was important for us to stay near the market. We do a fair amount of trade there, and it’s nice to have the comfort of having partners close by.”

A move to a new home isn’t the only change for Sun Farm Foodservice in 2014.

 

Connecting growers

The company recently purchased a website, farmplicity.com, that connects buyers with local growers, Pollaci said.

Sun Farm bought the site from its creators, three students at St. Louis’s Washington University. Sun Farm hopes to launch its version of the site this summer.

A Web developer and the three students are helping the company with the transition.

Local growers log on to the site, provide biographical information and showcase what they have to sell, Pollaci said. Restaurateurs and other buyers then pick their products, determine delivery details and buy the products right on the site.

A buyer places its order, the farmer delivers it to Sun Farm the next day, and Sun Farm delivers it to the restaurant. Produce can be sourced from as far as 150 miles away.

“It’s a fantastic idea,” Pollaci said. “It’s difficult for us to find farmers, and this has a database of more than 100 farmers.”

The efficiency of the service is particularly important, since the shelf life on local produce is so short, Pollaci said.