Wholesalers enjoy first year in new market

09/21/2012 11:27:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

PHILADELPHIA — Marking their first year in the new Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, tenants report the move is bringing new customers.

Distributors also point out improved efficiencies that the move is bringing.

“This place is a showcase. It’s unbelievable,” said Chip Wiechec, president of Hunter Bros. Inc. “It’s a pleasure to be able to work and do business here.”

Without the increased efficiencies, Wiechec said wholesalers likely wouldn’t be able to afford the place.

Better refrigeration

John Vena Jr., market board treasurer and president of John Vena Inc., said the facility’s modern produce refrigeration marks one of the biggest improvements in preserving produce.

“Efficiency levels have increased and can increase more,” Vena, the chairman of the facility’s marketing committee, said. “I think we can be a lot more efficient.

“We are already hugely more efficient than the old market. I don’t think you can overstress the importance of the cold chain here. It has made our lives so much easier.”

Todd Penza, salesman for Pinto Bros. Inc., said he doesn’t hear anyone complain anymore.

He said distributors are taking advantage of the modern facility’s improved efficiencies.

Maintaining the cold chain results in a large improvement and value for them, especially when they handled produce in such a hot summer as this summer.

“We’re able to expand our product line because of the room that we have and because of the quality of refrigeration,” Penza said. “We’re also getting more customers. We have expanded, and others have too. It’s helping us attract new customers.

“It’s the idea of working with someone that’s in a modern facility,” he said. There’s some sense of reassurance that the quality of the produce they’re buying is going to be the same standard as if they purchased from someone else with a modern facility. You didn’t have that working in a 50-year-old facility.”

Drawing card

John DiFeliciantonio, market board secretary and partner with Ryeco Inc., said distributors finished adjusting to the growing pains involved in the building’s first year.

He agrees the facility is a drawing card for more customers.

“The customers love it,” DiFeliciantonio said. “They don’t have to be here as long, it’s much easier to park, there’s so much more room for them, and the product has much greater shelf life. There’s a lot less damage. Every customer seems to be taking more product and spending less time with it.”


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