Business stays brisk, upbeat on St Louis' Produce Row - The Packer

Business stays brisk, upbeat on St Louis' Produce Row

08/05/2011 01:24:00 PM
Chuck Robinson

Much of the fresh-cut produce available on Produce Row comes from the terminal’s largest single occupant, United Fruit & Produce Co. In its third generation on the terminal, in the past two years the company has expanded to include a fresh-cut operation in a building across the street from the main terminal market buildings. Officials there said they don’t have any plans move.

Other companies may not have been on the terminal as long as United, but their officials also said that the market’s future is secure, and they plan to continue doing business there.

Dale Vaccaro of Vaccaro & Sons Produce has been on Produce Row for about 12 years. His company supplies foodservice operations and local grocery stores. He said the weather has disrupted some supplies and delayed some harvests, but his business hasn’t suffered too much.

“We’re treading water like so many others in this economy, but we are pretty pleased about how things are going. We are busy and optimistic,” Vaccaro said.

Down the market, Ole Tyme Produce Inc. director of security and HACCP Don Colombo said foodservice customers have maintained their order levels pretty well. However there have been some low points.

“Mother’s Day wasn’t as good this year for restaurants,” Colombo said. “In general I don’t think people are eating out as much, and we are seeing that in our business.”

Colombo is confident the economy will improve, though, and spent money in the past year to pour all new floors in the tomato rooms at Ole Tyme. The company also installed walls that make wash downs easier and enhance Ole Tyme’s food safety program.

Another foodservice wholesaler, Sunfarm Inc., hasn’t really seen much of a dip in business, even during the past two years of uncertain economic conditions.

President John Pollaci said he believes Sunfarm has been able to maintain a consistent level of business partly because of its client list. The company has been on Produce Row for 20 years.

“We tend to supply the higher end restaurants like the Four Seasons and the Marriott at Union Station,” Pollaci said. “I don’t think that sector has been hit as hard.

People who can eat at those restaurants keep going out to dinner even in a recession.”

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