(May 2) Nashville, Tenn.-based Produce Alliance strengthened its presence in the Southeastern U.S. with its new Jacksonville, Fla.-based member The Garden Wholesale Inc.

Matt Wasson, vice president and co-owner of The Garden Wholesale, said his company, which joined Produce Alliance at the end of March, will have better access to national and regional multi-chain accounts.

“Jacksonville is a growing area,” he said. “There are a lot of new concepts coming to the area and it puts us at the front of the line to have opportunities to service those accounts.”

The Garden Wholesale has experienced a lot of growth in the past couple of years.

In September 2006, brothers Matt and Jon Wasson merged their companies, The Garden Wholesale and Jacksonville-based Jon’s Tomatoes. The merged company then bought Jacksonville-based Pitman Produce.

Joining Produce Alliance was the next logical step for growth, Wasson said.

“It opens up opportunities for us as far as procurement programs and the opportunity to buy from more grower-shippers at better prices,” Wasson said.

The company also spent about $100,000 on facility improvements, which included enclosing shipping docks to maintain the cold chain, Wasson said.

With the addition, Produce Alliance works with distributors with more than 40 locations serving 38 states.