Distributors move into trendsetting new Philadelphia market

09/07/2011 10:45:00 AM
Doug Ohlmeier

PHILADELPHIA — After years of struggle, wholesalers on the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market are finally doing business out of the long-planned terminal market.

Doug OhlemeierThe doors officially opened for business June 5.

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world seeing the accomplishment we made in this market,” said Jimmy Storey, former terminal association president and president and owner of Quaker City Produce Co.

Storey said all of the leaders involved in the process did a commendable job.

“We have great satisfaction being here. We went through a lot,” said Richard Nardella, chief executive and financial officer of Nardella Inc. 

In the early 2000s, Nardella and Storey started the long process of finding new terminal market facilities as the city’s aging and decrepit market proved incapable of meeting modern produce handling requirements.

While they wanted new facilities, many of the 26 wholesalers and their customers expressed concern that the new facility’s higher operating expenses would harm business.

Chip Wiechec, president of Hunter Bros. Inc., said those fears did not materialize.

Doug OhlemeierIt took them years of struggle, but wholesalers on the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market are finally doing business out of the long-planned terminal market. Doors officially opened for business June 5. “I think everyone was more concerned about the increase in rent and expenses,” he said. “Some thought product would be artificially inflated because of our increase in overhead costs. But the increases in some portions of our overhead were matched by some decreases in operating expenses and the streamlining of our operations.”   

The improvements, such as maintaining consistent temperatures, have helped the handling of produce, said Mark Levin, co-owner of M. Levin & Co Inc.

“If nothing else, we’re making money because we have less shrink,” he said. “We’re losing fewer packages due to mishandling or weather conditions or lack thereof. ... It’s always 55 degrees. And will be the same today and in January.” 

The operation provides numerous efficiencies for distributors and their customers, said Martin Roth, secretary-treasurer of Coosemans Philadelphia Inc.

“The customers love it because the product is being refrigerated at all times,” he said.

Roth said he had a small customer fearful of a more difficult new marketplace who nearly screamed that he’d retire before relocating his business to the new facility.

However, after two days of walking the floor and seeing how easy it is to back his truck into the docks and leave with his orders, the customer quickly changed his mind and now tells Roth that the operation makes produce handling “as easy as selling sliced bread.”

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