For the first time since O. Lippi & Co. closed in the spring of 2009, the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market boasts a banana ripening house.
Raymond Mah, who also owns Berti Produce Co. on the market, opened Golden Banana Inc. and hired veteran ripener Spencer Levy to run it earlier this year.
The company custom ripens bananas so customers can better control their inventories and buy several days out, Levy said.
Golden Banana offers conventional and organic fruit and also packs single bananas for foodservice as well as specialties like baby bananas, plantains and saba bananas.
Buyers can select the color stage they want and have confidence the product will be handled with care and have a long shelf life, said Levy, who has logged 22 years in the produce industry, most of that time involved in ripening bananas.
Levy previously spent 20 years with Western Produce, owned and operated by Franklin Chew on the Oakland Produce Market.
Levy commended Mah for investing in the new banana house.
“He sees a need for any produce market to have a ripening house,” Levy said.
Golden Banana sells up to 2,000 cartons a week, he said.
“It’s working better than we imagined,” Levy said.
The company also is expanding into other tropicals, like pineapples, and during the summer, when banana sales were slow, the company found a niche with local strawberry and peach growers, he said.
The firm also will handle grapes, figs and other fruit during the local season and may expand into vegetables, like lettuce and broccoli, during the winter months.
Golden Banana currently handles only Dole brand bananas, but Levy would like to offer other labels, as well, because customers sometimes have their own brand preference.
“The more name brands we have, it broadens the spectrum for the customer,” he said.