High winter and spring prices stress produce sales - The Packer

High winter and spring prices stress produce sales

09/16/2010 06:41:18 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Most of BRS’ sales are to small grocery stores and foodservice purveyors that deliver to restaurants, diners and pizzerias.

Richard Nardella, chief executive and financial officer of Nardella Inc., said the higher prices were a negative with the slowing economy.

“The economy has affected everyone a little,” he said. “Prices were very high in January, February and March. But all in all, business has been good. We have picked up a few more customers, mostly retail, due to our hustling. We plan to continue to grow.”

Tom Curtis, president of Tom Curtis Brokerage, called overall business strong.

Curtis said his business was 25% ahead of last year up until mid-May, when he first saw the slowing of sales.

“Reports of the economy being better — I don’t see it,” he said. “I think we’re in for another rough ride. This economy may crack in October or November. Things are just not right. You can feel it.”

Mark Levin, co-owner of M. Levin & Co. Inc., said he sees produce consumption continuing to climb.

“People are more health conscious now than they ever were,” he said. “The unfortunate part I, depending on the economic class you’re in, you can only afford so much health. So much money has to go for clothing and school. I hate to see people skip on produce.

“With everything that has been said about produce in the past, it’s still the best thing for you. People may buy apples, oranges and bananas, but maybe they don’t need the exotic items like raspberries that are too expensive for the normal family.”

Levin said bananas remain a consistent seller for the wholesaler.

This is a tangent. Separate story? Celebrating its 104th year, the family-run M. Levin & Co. is managed by third-generation family members and has a fourth generation of daughters working in the business.

“It will be interesting to see how the women perceive this business, which has been a male-dominated business for years,” Levin said. “None of them seem to be afraid of the challenges. They’re all excited about the new location and modernizing the operations.”

Levin said all of the fourth generation is being trained to take over the roles of leadership.

Tracie Levin, Levin’s daughter and general manager, recently graduated from United Fresh Produce Association’s leadership program.

Sarah Levine works in banana ripening with her father, co-owner David Levin.

Margie Levin Fishman is in tropical sales and foodservice sales.

Brenda Segel works in inventory control.

“We make no bones about it. There are no slouches here,” Mark Levin said. “If they’re not willing to work, they will be employed here but not a part of the business. Our fathers never coddled us down here. You are here to do a job. The hours and labor are bad, but if you do the job well, everything will be all right.”

Levin said he and his cousin owners’ fathers instilled that philosophy in them that that they hope they are instilling that in their children.

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