PHILADELPHIA — Those responsible for relocating Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market wholesalers into modern facilities deflect attention from themselves and point to a combined effort for the move.
In 2002, Jimmy Storey, president of the terminal association and president and owner of Quaker City Produce Co., and Richard Nardella, chief executive and financial officer of Nardella Inc., requested longtime state Sen. Vincent Fumo to help them create a new market. Storey, Nardella, and Sonny DiCrecchio, the market’s executive director and then-market manager, would have many meetings with the former south Philadelphia lawmaker.
Also joining in the early stages of searching for a new facility: George Manos, president of TM Kovacevich International Inc.; Louis Penza Jr., partner with Pinto Bros. Inc.; Joseph Procacci, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Procacci Bros. Sales Corp.; and John Vena Jr., president of John Vena Inc.
All give credit to Storey, who many consider the leading proponent whose tireless efforts help bring the facility to fruition.
“Jimmy Storey was the spearhead,” Nardella said. “He put in a lot of hours. I can remember going to meetings with him day after day and spending time with Sen. Fumo and the politicians.”
Storey, who underwent heart surgery in late 2010, has been away from the business receiving rehabilitation. Colleagues say he has returned to his home and appears to be doing well.
Determined to see the job completed, Storey remained board president for a decade, Penza said.
“He wasn’t going to give up his seat until he knew everything was in place,” Penza said. “This has been a group effort by all the board members that have been hanging in there together the last 10 years working toward this goal.”
Vena, market board member and chairman of the facility’s marketing committee, said Storey is working hard to rebuild his strength.
“He is a strong guy who’s fighting his way back,” Vena said.
Vena also notes how market board member and marketing committee member John DiFeliciantonio, partner in Ryeco Inc., has also become highly involved in the market’s relocation since 2009.
After returning from a European vacation in 2003 which saw him making side trips to visit produce distribution facilities in Germany, Holland and Italy, Vena showed other wholesalers photos of a modern operation he viewed in Verona, Italy. The Philadelphia distributors incorporated some of that market’s features into its design.
Vena said wholesalers wanted to construct a building that did more than only physically handle produce.
“The feeling was this is a trading place for produce,” he said. “Not a warehouse and not a distribution center, but a place where people could come to buy and sell fresh fruit and vegetables. It needed to have a vibration or those good feelings we were hoping for. People will be energized when they come into this market. Customers can walk the market, see the product and make their own decisions about quality and freshness. We wanted to create a marketplace, not a distribution center.”
Majoring in advertising in college, Vena worked at Indianapolis advertising agencies for two years after graduating from Butler University, Indianapolis, in the mid-1970s. His father, John Vena, convinced him to return to the family business, where he started by selecting produce and sweeping the floors of the one unit produce operation. He moved into sales in 1977.
Penza is one of the three stockholders of Pinto Bros., which was founded in 1972.
Nardella was working in the produce industry when the old market opened in 1959. His business is set to begin its 30th year in November.
James Storey, Jimmy Storey’s grandfather, and Dan Storey, Jimmy Storey’s uncle, started Quaker City in 1954.
Kovacevich opened in 1986 and Procacci Bros. traces its roots to 1935 when 8-year-old Joseph Procacci sold produce from a push cart.