Recession's effects linger in Boston, produce suppliers say

03/24/2011 05:10:43 PM
Susie Cable

Produce houses in Boston buckle down and hang tight during tough economic times.

“We’re holding the course steady as it goes,” said Richie Travers, partner in Mutual Produce Inc., Chelsea, Mass.

Maurice Crafts, salesman for Coosemans Boston Inc., Chelsea, said the specialty produce house is maintaining its focus on good service and quality produce.

Community-Suffolk’s strategy in the difficult economic times is to focus on its core customers and products and maintain good service in hopes of seeing some growth in sales, said Steven Piazza, salesman for Community-Suffolk Inc., Everett, Mass.

The company’s business is about evenly divided between sales to foodservice and sales to retail.

“A month ago, it felt like it (the economy) was bouncing back, but with high (produce) prices and fuel costs ... we’ve fallen off a bit again,” Piazza said. “It has really hurt people in the pocketbook.”

Like other retailers, Ring Bros. Marketplace, South Dennis, Mass., (Ring Bros. Wholesale’s retail store) has benefited from people cutting expenses by eating at home more often instead of eating out, said Ed Ring, co-owner.

Retail sales during the recession have increased for the Marketplace. The store competes with large chain stores in the area, including Stop & Shop and Trader Joe’s.

As the economy worsened, Ring said Ring Bros. tried to provide more services to its customers as a way to continue to distinguish itself from others.

“We try to do different stuff than they do across the street,” he said. “We try to do everything different.”

Crafts said he thinks the Boston-area economy is in recovery, with prices beginning to stabilize. He’s hopeful that spring and summer will bring a rebound in business.

Coosemans typically sees a spike in business during the summer because it serves customers in nearby vacation areas such as Cape Cod, Mass.

It also gets business from farm stand owners who want to offer spring mix or other items they don’t grow themselves.

“We’re looking for a great spring and summer,” he said. “It looks good.”



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