NEW YORK — Produce sales by peddlers, the pushcart entrepreneurs that work the streets selling fresh produce to office workers and others, could soon receive a big boost.
The city of New York is pushing a green carts initiative designed to put more pushcarts on the streets in neighborhoods that don’t have easy access to fresh produce.
In the plan, the city would license the carts similar to how it licenses taxi drivers.
Matthew D’Arrigo, vice president of D’Arrigo Bros. Co. of New York Inc., and co-chairman of the Hunts Point Terminal Market, said street sales by the pushcart vendors are on the increase and the city effort will only help increase produce sales.
“This is a public-private initiative that will put more green carts on the street in specific areas picked by the city,” he said. “We like the idea. I suspect it will help create some better users of fresh produce.”
Richard Cochran, president of Robert T. Cochran & Co. Inc., said the city has issued an additional 600 licenses, and is targeting neighborhoods where fresh produce isn’t readily available.
“The new carts are aimed more at the boroughs where there aren’t many supermarkets on the corners,” he said. “Those guys that work downtown in Manhattan sell a lot of product.”
Pushcart operators used to operate differently and have increased their purchasing specifications, said Carlos Garcia, general manager of Krisp-Pak Sales Corp.
“They used to be good to clean up product that you had to sell the same day,” he said. “They would come by and help you out by buying it for a cheap price.”
Today, however, most pushcart operators want good product for a reasonable price.
“Most have gotten sick of hearing from their customers that the product they were selling was no good,” Garcia said. “They must have figured if they sell good stuff for reasonable prices they won’t lose as much at the end of day, because if they have to throw out half of their cart it’s not profitable.”
From Krisp-Pak, pushcart buyers purchase cucumbers, eggplant, mushrooms, romaine hearts, spinach and other items.
Garcia said operators will band together and purchase produce as a group and distribute to five to six different operations.
Paul Manfre, buyer for Top Katz Brokers LLC, likes the idea.
“When you’re selling on the street, people will eat it immediately,” he said. “If it keeps people away from eating candy bars, potato chips or ice cream, it’s not a bad idea at all.”
Manfre 35 years ago entered the produce industry by selling produce from pushcarts on the streets of New York.