St. Louis wholesalers report strong demand - The Packer

St. Louis wholesalers report strong demand

08/03/2012 10:43:00 AM
Andy Nelson

ST. LOUIS — Business is either steady or up for most St. Louis area wholesalers.

Dale Vaccaro of Vaccaro & Sons Produce reports brisk movement on the St. Louis Produce Terminal, driven largely by the post-recession recovery of the area’s foodservice sector.

“Business has been very good,” Vaccaro said. “The restaurant sector is coming back a little bit, enough where people are optimistic about spending money.”

For H.R. Bushman & Son, also a tenant of the St. Louis Produce Market, 2012 business has been steady, said Sal Pupillo, a co-owner of the company.

“It’s kind of business as usual here. We don’t get the high highs or the low lows,” he said.

Mother Nature plays a big role in where Bushman is sourcing product this summer.

“The hot weather’s affecting things,” Pupillo said. “But produce is coming from all over the Midwest now. If you can’t get it from one place, you can get it somewhere else.”

That’s usually a plus, Pupillo said, though it can exert downward pressure on prices.

“When you have six or eight states shipping the same thing at the same time, it causes markets not to do a lot,” he said.

Business in the St. Louis office of Tom Lange Co. Inc. has been so good, the company is in hiring mode, said Jeff Moore, vice president of sales.

In 2011, Sun Farm Foodservice went through one of its periods of rapid growth, with sales up about 30%, thanks largely to the addition of salesman Juan Sanchez, who brought with him a substantial roster of Hispanic produce customers, said John Pollaci, Sun Farm’s president.

Those periods of rapid growth for the company tend to be followed by plateaus, Pollaci said. That doesn’t mean Sun Farm has stopped growing.

“We’re seeing growth of about 5%,” he said.

Cumulative growth over recent years has the company thinking about looking for additional space, either on the St. Louis Produce Market or off, Pollaci said.

Ironically, the sluggish economy has actually helped Sun Farm in one respect, Pollaci said. St. Louis area residents who forgo real vacations for “staycations,” in order to save money, treat themselves at area restaurants.

Sun Farm saw the reverse side of that in March, when people, feeling more confident about their finances, took their kids out of town on spring break instead of taking them out to eat at home in St. Louis.

“People actually left town, which hurt us,” he said. “A lot more restaurants were empty.”

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