( Courtesy Manfredi Cold Storage )

Expansion across the Delaware River into New Jersey is one way that Toughkenamon, Pa.-based Manfredi Cold Storage is looking to accommodate future growth in imported fresh produce.

Frank Manfredi, president of the company, is partner with his brother John Manfredi in owning the Manfredi Cos., a group of companies that also include Inland Transportation Corp., Manfredi Logistics Service, National Refrigerated Freight and International Repack.

Manfredi Cold Storage opened in 1985 and completed its first cold storage room in early 1986. It has grown from two employees to about 270 employees, he said. The firm doesn’t own or market any fresh product, but rather offers short-term cold storage services to customers importing fruit.

“From (that beginning) we’ve done small additions and larger additions ever since,” Frank Manfredi said. 

“We have been fortunate enough to team up with some really good customers, particularly importers gave us a lot of support.”

Toughkenamon is located just outside Kennett Square, Pa., and mushrooms are part of the history of the family and the company.

After coming to America from Italy in the early 1900s, Manfredi’s grandfather and his grandfather’s brothers had settled in the Kennett Square region in the 1930s and worked on mushroom farms. That generation gave way to the next generation, which included Manfredi’s father and uncle, both of whom grew mushrooms.

When brother John Manfredi got into the sales and marketing of mushrooms, Frank began growing mushrooms, he said.

After about 12 years, their business model changed when a customer who bought mushrooms from them wanted the Manfredis also to pick up pallets of fruit to deliver with the mushrooms.

“My brother told the guy we’re not in that business, and the guy told my brother, ‘If you don’t bring the fruit, don’t bring the mushrooms’ So my brother went to the port and picked up two skids (of fruit),” he said. “The rest is history.”

Access to River

The firm has easy access to ports on the Delaware River, the largest terminal for fruit imports in the U.S., Manfredi said. 

“More fruit comes up the river than anywhere else,” he said. “We are a short haul to the river and we pick up at the waterfront every day,” he said, noting business at the Port of Wilmington, the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal, Penn Terminal and Holt Terminal, and others, he said.

“We are at all of them every day, and that’s really driving the bus (of growth),” he said.

Manfredi said the volume of fruit imports, and the variety of origins for those imports, has really changed the business since the late 1980s.

“Having summer fruit all winter long and having access to avocados all year long; you look at berries, you look at citrus, you look at avocados, those three categories have taken off like gangbusters,” he said.

With that growth of imported fruit volume, Manfredi has expanded along with its customers.

“The first cooler box we had here started out with like 60 skids, and I think the first year in business on the warehouse side, I think we handled 60,000 packages,” he said. 

Today, with the 48-acre site in Pennsylvania, Manfredi Cold Storage can handle 30,000 pallets at one time and this year will handle more than 40 million packages, he said.

Earlier this year, the company opened up a 30,000-square-foot expansion at its Toughkenamon base and the company expects to open a new facility on 52 acres across the Delaware River in New Jersey by the end of next year.

Manfredi said the company has heavily invested in technology and software to make its operations as efficient as possible.

Every box is tracked and that leaves no confusion on where product is in the facility.

“There is no searching for product, and that allows us to turn around a truck relatively quickly,” he said.

“With changes we made with the software system here in the last 17 months, we’ve increased our throughput by 15%,” he said. “There as investment but the payback was quick.” Team meetings every week look at ways to solve problems and increase efficiency, he said.

With about 90 docks for trucks, the operation can unload and receive 110 truckloads of product in a day and ship out as many as 150 truckloads, if needed.