Recession hits Boston produce businesses hard

04/03/2009 12:00:00 AM
Andy Nelson

“Every time you listen to the news, you hear about a lot of people losing their jobs,” he said. “I can’t complain. Overall, we’re doing pretty well. We’re just waiting for spring.”

What gives Nano solace in leaner times? It’s his customer base.

“We have about 2,000 customers, and they’re all small guys,” he said. “They may not buy a lot, but they come in every day.”

That’s in contrast to chain stores, which may buy a ton of product one day, then none at all for several days or weeks running, Nano said.

“I dedicate myself to small people — they keep me alive,” he said. “I’m lucky that we have a lot of customers, so we don’t feel it (the economic downturn) that much. Those chains, they’ll put you out of business.”

Two or three loads of product per week a year ago may, in some cases, have been scaled back to one or two loads in 2009, said Maurice Crafts, a salesman for Coosemans Boston Inc.

Nonetheless, Crafts is keeping an optimistic outlook.

“It’s a little off, but we’re doing well,” he said. “Hopefully when spring comes, everybody will get rocking and rolling.”

Looking on the bright side, experience shows that economies go in cycles, and that strong companies can emerge stronger than they were before hard times arrived, Piazza said.

“After the Roaring ’80s we gave something back in the ’90s,” he said. “And that made us better and stronger.”

Not all Boston-area wholesalers are noticing a negative effect from the recession. Business was slow in late January and early February for John Cerasuolo Co. Inc., said Ken Cavallaro, treasurer. But it was due to other causes.

“It’s more weather-related,” Cavallaro said Feb. 12. “The last two or three weeks we’ve been in a deep freeze.”

The proof, Cavallaro said, is in the weeks leading up to the cold and heavy snows that slowed business on the East Coast.

“December was actually a good month, and the first couple of weeks of January are usually quiet, but not this year,” he said. “They were a little better than usual.”


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