(March 11, 4:55 p.m.) For the first time in the company’s 150 year history, The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, will market stone fruit grown in central California.

The company has entered into partnerships with a trio of Kingsburg, Calif., grower-shippers: Wildwood Packing and Cooling, Bujulian Bros. Inc. and YNT Enterprises.

Oppenheimer is opening a sales office at Wildwood Packing and Cooling. The sales staff will include Mike Bujulian and Nick Buratovich of Bujulian Bros.; Marc Serpa, West Coast stone fruit category manager for Oppenheimer; and Charlie Hein, a veteran fresh fruit salesman who resigned Dec. 21 from Kingsburg Orchards, Kingsburg, after nearly 20 years with the company.

The California stone fruit will complement Oppenheimer’s Southern Hemisphere winter program and will double its annual stone fruit volume, according to a company news release. Oppenheimer has marketed table grapes and kiwifruit grown in California for many years. The stone fruit will increase the 2008 volume to more than four million cartons, according to the news release.

Of that volume, about 250,000 cartons will come from Wildwood Packing and Cooling, said Alex Marriott, Wildwood Packing’s sales manager. Oppenheimer plans to export the Wildwood fruit, he said, mostly to Asia.

Wildwood Packing will continue to market the company’s citrus products.

“This partnership means I’ll get to concentrate on selling citrus year round,” Marriott said, “and focus on keeping current customers happy and looking for new customers.”

Some of the California stone fruit will carry the Naturally Ripe label from Bujulian Bros., but the majority of the fruit will be packed in the Oppenheimer label, the release said. The fruit will be sold throughout North America. Shipping is expected to begin in May.

In addition to the California apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots, the grower-shippers will produce pomegranates and some specialty items for Oppenheimer, according to the release.

“We have been interested in including California stone fruit in our product line for awhile, but have been waiting until the time was right,” John Anderson, Oppenheimer’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, said in the news release.

The third grower-shipper, YNT Enterprises, is owned by Yolanda Cavillo and Tony Duerksen.