Economy keeps clamps on growth in Florida - The Packer

Economy keeps clamps on growth in Florida

01/19/2012 05:28:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

TAMPA, Fla. — Like other distributors, Florida wholesalers report slow produce sales. They say the economy is pressing retail and foodservice distribution.

“There aren’t a lot of jobs available because there isn’t a lot of business out there,” said Bruce Fishbein, partner in The Produce Connection Inc., Miami. “People are not going out to eat as much. During the week, your deliveries to restaurants are much smaller than they are on the weekends, when more people are going out.”

Despite the sales slowdown, Fishbein said the foodservice distributor’s sales increased a little from 2010 to 2011.

Though sales could always be better, some distributors, such as Louis Garcia III, salesman and buyer for Crews & Garcia Inc., which trucks produce throughout the state, said sales increased 10% over the previous year.

“The economy isn’t as bad as it was nor as bad as people think is,” Garcia said. “You have to work harder for the business and spend more time adding to it.”

While many Florida distributors report produce sales as weak or steady, some in south Florida say sales remain strong.

“Produce sales are pretty active and are definitely recovering,” said Jack Scalisi, president of Jack T. Scalisi Wholesale Produce Distributors, West Palm Beach. “Business is as good as or better than last year. We are at least 15% better than last year. There’s a lot of demand for fresh produce. You can tell by the deals hotels are offering. The vacancy rate has really shrunk.”

Scalisi said south Florida hotels offered more deals last year, when occupancy rates were lower.

Scalisi distributes to high-end restaurants, country clubs, yachts and private aircraft caterers.

The economic slowdown continues to affect tourism, said Marshall Glantz, president of exports, cruise ships and business development and executive director for American Fruit & Produce Corp., Opa Locka.

“The people that are in foodservice had a tremendous downturn in business just from their customer base,” he said. “People are watching their dollars and aren’t able to go to hotels and restaurants. The economy has definitely caused tourism to be down.”

American Fruit & Produce in 2011 entered the foodservice business by starting a foodservice division.

Foodservice sales remain slow in Tampa as well, distributors report.

Justin Warren, general manager of Coosemans Tampa Inc., said the overall depressed Tampa area economy harms sales growth.

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