Despite troubling economic news, produce sales in the nation’s financial and media capital remain solid.
Serving people living and working in the epicenter of financial distress that wrecked the economy in 2008-09, produce wholesalers say things aren’t as bad as they could be.
Business remains strong for distributors on the Bronx, N.Y.-based Hunts Point Terminal Market.
“Business is good. Business is probably better than what we had a year ago,” said Matthew D’Arrigo, market co-chairman and vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc. “When you have doom and gloom in all the headlines all around and business maintains itself, you feel fortunate and feel like you’re winning.”
D’Arrigo characterizes the New York and Tri-State metropolitan area’s economy as remaining in a holding pattern.
Though the stock market has increased, D’Arrigo said the overall economy hasn’t really appeared to have improved.
“It doesn’t feel that different to me at all whether it’s a good or bad economy,” he said. “I don’t know how many people told us we were lucky to be in the produce business in a bad economy versus being in real estate.”
D’Arrigo said market wholesalers were likely the least affected by the economic decline because of the way they are always taking positions based upon supply and demand. Though not unaffected, D’Arrigo said wholesalers always change, maneuver and consider where its markets are heading.
Carlos Garcia, general manager of New York-based Krisp-Pak Sales Corp., said the produce economy is benefiting from increasing economic activity.
“I say produce sales are on a steady increase from where we were to where we are now,” he said. “It seems like people are buying things. I wish the economy was better in general, but they are still building buildings and have people moving in, so that’s good.”
Distributors in the suburban areas of New Jersey and Long Island also say business has been strong.
RLB Food Distributors LP, West Caldwell, N.J., experienced a solid year in 2010. Joe Granata, director of produce, said produce businesses are doing well and said the overall area economy isn’t terrible either.
“We had a very good year last year,” he said. “I think the produce economy is rebounding, but there are so many challenges from Mother Nature in supply. Every time you pick up the newspaper, you read how growing areas are having problems.
“You can definitely see there’s been some rebound to the New York economy. Is it extravagant? No, but there’s some rebound. The restaurant business is picking up again and people are spending some money. Those fringe or specialty items they were laying off of, they’re picking up again.”
Paul Auerbach, president of Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., South Hackensack, N.J., characterizes the produce economy as steady.
“This is one of the industries that will kind of buck recessions to some degree,” Auerbach said. “When the economy first got bad, the foodservice business suffered. Now, we find both foodservice and retail have seen some improvements in both sectors. Foodservice is not back but it’s coming back.”
Richard Cochran, president of Robert T. Cochran & Co. Inc., New York, said he’s noticed a change in customer orders.
“I’d say business is off,” he said. “Business was off the last quarter of last year. I’ve seen worse but I’ve also seen better. This is one of those normal ones.”
Joel Panagakos, executive vice president of J. Kings Foodservice Professionals Inc., Holtsville, N.Y., sees foodservice sales rebounding.
“New York City itself is bouncing back pretty strong,” he said. “I heard this past year that tourism is at an all-time high. That’s very encouraging. We are increasing our street business in New York.”