Minnesota Produce employees join The Kunkel Co. - The Packer

Minnesota Produce employees join The Kunkel Co.

05/18/2012 01:05:00 PM
Tom Burfield

For years, Paul Piazza had a standing invitation to consolidate his Minneapolis firm, Minnesota Produce Inc., with Eden Prairie, Minn.-based The Kunkel Co.

Owner/president Ted Morimoto realized that The Kunkel Co. needed better coverage out of California, which had long been a strength of Minneapolis Produce.

Most of the business Minnesota Produce conducted was in California citrus and vegetables and in transportation services out of California, Piazza said, while the Southeast, Texas and Mexico are strengths of The Kunkel Co.

In a way, that consolidation came about in April when Piazza closed Minnesota Produce and joined The Kunkel Co. as vice president.

Salesman Phil Klint accompanied Piazza on his move to Kunkel, as did longtime bookkeeper Cathy LeClaire. Piazza also brought several valuable business relationships.

Piazza’s relationship with Morimoto goes back some 30 years when they were “young pups” in the industry working for Piazza’s father, Richard, at Minnesota Produce.

When veteran salesmen from each company announced their retirements recently, Piazza felt it was time to take Morimoto up on his longstanding invitation.

Market conditions also played a role in Piazza’s decision.

Minnesota Produce was “exceptionally healthy, profitable and successful,” Piazza said. So he made the decision to close the business at a time when it was stable and successful rather than risk making the choice at a later date when conditions might not be as favorable.

“I feel I honored my father best by bringing Minnesota Produce to a successful conclusion,” he said.

The addition of “two strong California guys” should make it easier for The Kunkel Co. to make timely deliveries and provide better product availability, Morimoto said.

Richard Piazza and Robert Stillman founded Minnesota Produce in 1961, and Paul Piazza became the sole stockholder when his father died in 1998.

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