Upper Lakes Foods restructures staff

Upper Lakes Foods, a Cloquet, Minn.-based broadline foodservice distributor, has restructured its staff from the top down.

The company’s produce business is handled by three employees now, said Mike McLeod, produce manager.

McLeod succeeds Doug Strandquist in the position.

“It’s definitely been a crazy first full year of buying, but sitting alongside Doug for a year really helped me,” McLeod said.

McLeod, who has been with the company for 11 years, said there used to be more than 10 people working in produce. Remaining with McLeod are Shane Margin, who is in charge of quality, and Mike Colombe, who manages repack and incoming produce.

“They were basically going through each department, retooling and trying to get the most efficiency out of it,” McLeod said. “I was able to hand pick the couple of guys who came with me.”

J&J Distributing upgrades facility

St. Paul, Minn.-based J&J Distributing Inc. has kept busy this year making improvements to its warehouse.

The company totally redid its receiving area with all new receiving doors and a facility layout change, said Kevin Hannigan, vice president.  It has expansion projects already in the works for other areas, he said.

“We’ve been expanding our process steadily, and our retail sales are growing,” Hannigan said. “Our customer base is growing, and we’re making a lot more deliveries.”

Russ Davis Wholesale adds merchandiser

Dean Balzum joined Russ Davis Wholesale and its subsidiary, North Country Produce, in February.

Balzum is a merchandiser for the Inver Grove Heights, Minn.-based company.


Before joining Russ Davis Wholesale, Balzum was director of produce for Kowalski’s Markets, Woodbury, Minn.

The company has also brought on a merchandiser in Marrow, Wis., and hired more quality control staff this year, said Adam Gamble, general manager of North Country Produce.

Co-op Partners Warehouse hires sales representative

Andy Wright has joined Minneapolis-based Co-op Partners Warehouse, the distribution arm of The Wedge Co-op, as an outside salesman.

Wright was previously a director at Organic Valley, La Farge, Wis., said Tom Rodmyre, warehouse manager for Co-op Partners Warehouse. Wright was with the company eight years.

In the late 1990s, Wright worked with a Minnesota spinach grower that is no longer in business, Rodmyre said.

H. Brooks & Co. adds food safety position

Emma Fernandez has filled a new position for H. Brooks & Co. — director of food safety and quality.

Fernandez joined the company in March to head up food safety, said Phillip Brooks, chief executive officer of the New Brighton, Minn.-based company.

H. Brooks moved into a new facility in April of 2001 that was set up for improved food safety practices.

The company has since installed new equipment and technology to improve its food safety and traceability, and wanted to bring on a staff member to oversee its capabilities, Brooks said.

The company’s director of foodservice sales, Nina Brooks, was also honored this year by being accepted to the United Fresh Produce Association’s Leadership Program. She is set to graduate from the program in 2011.

Minnesota Produce Inc. enters banana business

Minneapolis-based Minnesota Produce Inc. is selling bananas for the first time.

“We’ve started to sell a handful of Del Monte bananas,” said Paul Piazza Sr., president. “This company’s never sold a banana in its 50-year history.”

Bananas were an ideal commodity to break into because Minnesota Produce doesn’t have to worry about the logistics, Piazza said.

“They can get us out of Chicago overnight,” Piazza said. “We don’t have to worry about transportation.”

The company is looking for new things to sell to further diversify its product offerings, he said.

C.H. Robinson supports Race for the Cure

Eden Prairie, Minn.-based C.H. Robinson is continuing its charitable work with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure this year.

The company donated $126,000 to breast cancer research in 2009 through its Pink Ribbon Watermelon program, said Jim Lemke, senior vice president of sourcing.

At a Race for the Cure event May 8, the company passed out fresh-cut watermelon. It plans to do the same at a three-day national event later this summer.

Albert’s Organics looks to expand, update

Bridgeport, N.J.-based Albert’s Organics is looking to make some changes to its Mounds View, Minn., distribution facility.

The organic supplier and distributor is reviewing its needs for banana ripening capacity, as well as looking at adding on new refrigeration and freezer space, said Simcha Weinstein, marketing director.