PHILADELPHIA â The long-awaited move to better facilities remains the focus of discussion for wholesalers on the Philadelphia Regional Produce Market.
Workers are completing construction of the new Philadelphia Regional Produce Market.
When the move is completed, wholesalers will be receiving and selling product in a facility many say will serve as a model for other city produce terminal markets.
The new operation will have a new name as well: the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market.
Though the move was originally scheduled to start by summer and then moved to late October or early November, market officials in late August say they donât expect the relocation of market operations to occur until early January.
As the buildings at the present facility at 3301 S. Calloway continue to crumble, distributors are preparing for the move, said Jimmy Storey, terminal market association president and president and owner of Quaker City Produce Co.
âIt would be a good thing to get out of here, in this market thatâs falling apart bad, so we can better serve our customers and give them a better facility,â he said. âThis will take them out of the position of where they break the cold chain.â
Though looking forward to the move, distributors express concerns over its cost.
âWe are very worried about the expense,â said John Waleski, president and owner of John Waleski Produce Co. Inc. âYouâre not going to get a whole lot more for the product. Unless we get new business, thereâs no way anyone can triple their expenses.â
Add Jack Collotti Jr., vice president of Collotti & Sons Produce Inc., to the list of those who are worried.
âThis place is antiquated, so the new one will be better,â he said. âOur (only) concern is the higher cost.â
However, despite a sluggish economy, many distributors say they are not seeing disappointing sales.
âThe produce business has been good,â said Todd Penza, salesman for Pinto Bros. Inc. âWe havenât seen a slowdown in our business at all. The restaurant people have been complaining their business has been bad, but we donât hear too much of that on the retail side.â
Penza and other wholesalers say the general economic slowdown prompts them to only work harder and work to better serve their customers.
Mike Maxwell, president of Procacci Bros. Sales Corp., said Philadelphia remains strong.
âThe city is doing well,â he said. âThe whole atmosphere of the city is upbeat. If you visit a city where lots of things are happening, thereâs a euphoria that attracts people.â
Rick Milavsky, vice president of BRS Produce Co., in front of his produce display on the Philadelphia Regional Produce Market.
Though Richard Nardella, chief executive and financial officer of Nardella Inc., admits he hast been affected by the economic slowdown, he said business has remained strong.
âBecause of the economy, most of our customers have had a little downswing,â Nardella said. âRestaurants are feeling it the worst. Retailers are slightly down, but for the most part their business is staying steady. Business is good. Everyone is hoping the economy will bounce back, and I am excited about the future.â
Rick Milavsky, vice president of BRS Produce Co., also characterizes sales as consistent despite the downturn in the economy,
âEveryone has been struggling,â he said. âYou hear it from all of your customers. All the customers, the little people and the big ones, you see them paying a little slower. They all say theyâre just paying their bills but are happy to be working. If you want to work, you just hang in there. Eventually, it will level out.â
Sales have been positive for distributors outside of the metropolitan area of Philadelphia, such as Four Seasons Produce Inc., Ephrata.
âFrom what I can tell and the communication we get from customers, itâs a better year this year on the East Coast,â said Ron Carkoski, president and chief executive officer. âFor the most part, they are seeing things stronger, better and thereâs kind of a resurrection coming back to the business. Itâs not back to what they would consider strong, but it has what I would call a fragile strength â a strength that wasnât there at the end of last year.â
Carkoski said demand appears to be stronger and that he can see customers getting back into ordering.
He said Four Seasonsâ customers seem to possess a more positive attitude on spending.
Four Seasons focuses on distributing produce to retailers and wholesalers.