Doug OhlemeierJimmy Storey, Quaker City Produce Co. Jimmy Storey has returned to the building.
But this time, the building Storey, president and owner of Quaker City Produce Co., is working in is the new Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, an operation he helped build.
During the market’s March 25 ribbon-cutting event, speakers such as Jamie McDermott, director of the Philadelphia Regional Ports Authority, the market’s landlord, commended Storey’s dedication to seeing the market come to fruition.
“God bless you, Jimmy Story,” McDermott said. “Without him, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Storey was hospitalized from December to early June. He returned to work June 5, the day the new operation opened its doors for business.
“This is the greatest feeling being back,” Storey said. “It was tough and I’m still weak, but every day is getting better for me.”
Storey went in for an aorta valve replacement but during the surgery, doctors discovered an artery needing repair. He contracted pneumonia after fluid entered his lungs and endured some other complications.
“The way my family tells me, I died a couple of times, once anyhow,” he said. “They didn’t think I’d make it.”
Born in Philadelphia, Storey turns 67 on Nov. 21. He began working at Quaker City Produce, his father’s and uncle’s business, by unloading trucks when he was 16. Storey returned to the business after military service in 1965 and by the early 1970s moved into sales.
In 1993, Storey purchased the company from his cousins, Dan Storey Jr., and Maurice Storey.
Along with son Pete Storey, who works in sales, Meg Urzillo, Jimmy Storey’s girlfriend of 25 years, helps run the company as its office manager. Jimmy Storey has two daughters, and one of his grandchildren, Kyle Coombs, 21, works in the business as a produce selector and truck unloader.
Pete Storey said it’s good to have his father back in the business.
“This is like riding a bike for him,” Pete said. “He hasn’t skipped a beat. He’s a very hard worker. He’s always had that motto. They (the doctors) didn’t think he’d make it off that ventilator. But he kept pushing and pushing. With the help of his girlfriend and family, he got through it.”
John Vena Jr., market board member and president of John Vena Inc., said he hopes Jimmy Storey can regain his strength and do what he wants to do.
“He has dedicated his life to the industry and to this market,” Vena said. “Jimmy has always been concerned about the well-being of this market. He always looks for the good of the market.”
Vena called Storey a natural leader after the fashion of Joseph Procacci, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Procacci Bros. Sales Corp., who also helped bring the new market to reality.
“These are people that step up when they’re called upon,” Vena said. “We have lots of people that are following in those footsteps.”
Characteristically, Storey doesn’t like to take credit for the market’s successful opening. He attributes the successful market opening to the work of the many leaders who helped push for its relocation.
In the early 2000s, Storey and Richard Nardella, chief executive and financial officer of Nardella Inc., began the long process of relocation by meeting with the staff of Vincent Fumo, a former state senator.
Later, others, such as Vena, Procacci, George Manos, president of TM Kovacevich International Inc., and Louis Penza Jr., the market’s 2011 chairman of the board and partner with Pinto Bros. Inc., spearheaded the process to construct a new terminal market.
“Jimmy and I had a lot of fortitude,” Nardella said. “We stuck to it.”
It took many hours of meetings — the wholesalers would arrive for work at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m., finish their workday at noon, then try to push the political leaders to construct the market during late afternoon meetings, Nardella said.
“We talked to and put pressure on a lot of people, but it finally came to be,” he said. “We have a beautiful, Class A type of market.”