Move to market a long and frustrating path for Philadelphia produce distributors

09/16/2010 06:40:42 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Because of its constant 50 degree interior temperature and enclosed facility that will maintain the cold chain, Maxwell said the new market will do more to attract interest from local retail chain buyers who currently source produce outside of the terminal market.


Doug Ohlemeier

Problems with receiving and distributing produce become readily apparent at the current Philadelphia Regional Produce Market in south Philadelphia. The parking lot becomes congested with trucks and local retail and foodservice customers.


Richard Nardella, chief executive and financial officer of Nardella Inc., said wholesalers are enthusiastic about the upcoming move.

“Everyone in the market is pretty excited about it,” he said. “It should draw a lot of new customers, we are hoping. We definitely need a new facility, as this one is really starting to break apart. The new building will be very customer-friendly and better for us.”

With all operations refrigerated, the facility will be “the first of its kind in the world,” Nardella said.

Though many smaller customers don’t have refrigerated trucks, Nardella said about 90% of those that buy from the market transport their produce in refrigeration.

Nardella and Storey in 2003 began the long process of searching for a new terminal market.

“Everyone who has worked on the board has put in quite a bit of effort, including (market manager) Sonny DiCrecchio,” Nardella said. “This will cost us a lot more money, but it has worked out well.”

Chip Wiechec, president of Hunter Bros. Inc., said repair costs to wholesalers’ forklifts continue to mount.

He said Hunter Bros. is paying $1,200 a month to fix the forklifts that sustain heavy damaged after riding over diamond plates and holes in concrete, tasks the equipment wasn’t designed to handle.

“It’s easy to get mad at our guys for not treating our equipment right, but the infrastructure here is so dilapidated, damage is unavoidable,” Wiechec said. “We are looking for those savings we will get in the whole move, by being able to maintain the cold chain and doing things a lot better and more efficiently. That should also mean a lot less shrink.”



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