“I went direct to Taiwan and secured an exclusive on all of the Santa Sweet seed in the world,” Joe Procacci said. Today, in addition to marketing “everything from apples to zucchini,” as Joe Procacci puts it, the company also sells its santa F1 grape tomato seed to customers in Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand, he said.
Another Procacci Sales heirloom tomato variety is marketed as UglyRipe.
A little recognized Procacci Bros. fact is that the company is the nation’s largest importer of chestnuts, J.M. Procacci said.
“We source only from Italy, where they grow the very best chestnuts, and my father negotiates all of those contracts directly with the Italian growers,” he said.
From that cramped Camden basement to the sprawling seven warehouses of today’s Procacci Sales — and its other divisions — Joe Procacci’s approach has not changed.
“You have to be honest with your customers, and it pays off in the confidence the customers put in you,” he said. “We just kept our nose to the grindstone and kept doing what was honest and fair, and it has paid off.”
Yet another constant is Procacci himself.
“I still come in here anywhere from five to seven days a week,” he said. “If I’m not here I’m doing business outside the office.”
Joe Procacci admits to a diversion, however. He will on occasion play hooky to get in a round of golf, he said.
A temporary diversion is the upcoming opening of the new Philadelphia Produce Market.
“We have a wonderful association here, and most of that is because of my father,” J.M. Procacci said.Now in his 80s, backing away from the stress of the business he built is not in Joe Procacci’s plans.
A recent restructuring of company management found the title of chief marketing officer added to Joe Procacci’s duties as chief executive officer.
In the face of business pressures, Joe Procacci still finds time for numerous civic affairs and causes.
“It’s an important part of being a good citizen,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the position I am in in life, and I’m glad to participate in charity work.”
For J.M. Procacci, there’s a sliver of selfishness to keeping dad — the man he said he loved working alongside as a kid — on board. After all, there is only one Joe Procacci.
The admiration J.M. Procacci has for his father is obvious as evidenced by his reaction when The Packer honored Joe Procacci with its 1995 Produce Man of the Year award:
“If there’s a hall of fame in produce, my father would be Babe Ruth,” J.M Procacci said at the time.
It still holds true today, he said.
J.M. Procacci is not the only Procacci offspring to play a role in the family business. His sister, Rita Neczypor, is a key member of the marketing staff.No longer just a repacker, the volume of fresh produce and flowers marketed by Procacci Bros. annually is approaching 300,000 tons, and the company has more than 12,500 employees.