Much of Philadelphia’s produce wholesale business is concentrated in the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, a facility that marked its seventh anniversary in June.
As such, the facility is a major sales driver for numerous reasons, vendors and market operators say.
The modern amenities of the market create opportunities for the 22 vendors, said Christine Hoffman, marketing coordinator.
The “safe, clean, efficient” facility is conducive to high-quality merchandise, Hoffman said.
“The fully enclosed, fully refrigerated (Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market) ensures product quality and longevity,” she said.
“Our customers are enthusiastic about produce that is top notch and has great shelf life.”
Location is an ally of the market, too, Hoffman said.
“(The terminal market) is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the Port of Philadelphia, highways, railways, the airport, and a plethora of local farms,” she said.
The market is extremely user-friendly, said Tom Curtis, president of wholesaler Tom Curtis Produce Inc.
“The New York market has variety, too, but getting in and out is a real bear. This is a lot easier, cleaner and nicer and get in and out quickly,” he said.
Then, there are cities like Baltimore, with suppliers “kind of scattered off the market,” Curtis said.
“So, from here down, Philadelphia is the best bet. Logistically, the Philadelphia market is in the right place at the right time. Dock plates are all in. Everything you’re loading is around 40 degrees, even if it’s hot outside.”
That’s an important consideration, Curtis said.
“It’s all refrigerated, all tagged,” he said.
“They back in and the driver either loads his own truck, gets the manifest, counts packages and leaves. There’s no more traveling from dock to dock to dock to dock. We can see a change, with people coming from longer distances.”
Market vendors cooperate, as well as compete, with one another, Hoffman said.
“Our people are like a big family, both to our customers and to each other,” she said.
“Even though our 22 wholesalers compete, we support each other. It’s not unusual for our merchants to share customers, as well as delivery arrangements. We realized a long time ago that a flourishing market is best achieved through cooperation and respect.”
Local produce is plentiful on the market during the summer, said Mark Levin, co-owner of Philadelphia-based wholesaler M. Levin & Co. Inc.
“This is our time to shine with local veg, with Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, even Canadian stuff,” he said.
Market operators work hard to keep things running smoothly, said Mike Maxwell, president of Philadelphia distributor Procacci Bros. Sales.
“It’s a pleasure to shop there,” Maxwell said.
“There’s ample parking. It’s safe and enclosed, so you’re not subject to the weather.”
Stephen Secamiglio, partner with Philadelphia-based Colonial Produce, which started about the same time the terminal market opened, said the market’s “very efficient” operation helps vendors.
“We wouldn’t be able to do the volume at the old market that you are here,” he said. “Never break the cold chain.”
The market has been a business boost, said Tom Kovacevich, president of wholesaler T.M. Kovacevich-Philadelphia Inc.
“It still feels new and has helped our business in so many ways,” he said.
“We are forever grateful for the opportunity to trade produce in the best wholesale produce arena on earth.”
Kovacevich said his company occupies nine units, with a capacity of more than 2,000 pallets.
“We see much more room for growth despite the doubling of our business since the move,” he said.
“The addition of new lines and the growing retailer appreciation of our ability to compete offer us much opportunity going forward.”