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San Francisco wholesaler O. Lippi & Co. closes its doors

by Brian Gaylord | February 16, 2009
O. Lippi & Co. Inc., one of the older firms on the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, which specialized in bananas, tropical fruits, avocados and citrus, has gone out of business. The company closed its doors Jan. 30.

Michael Janis, general manager of the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, said that O. Lippi was hurt by a difficult year in the banana markets in 2008 and that the "current national business environment severely impacted them."

O. Lippi was one of the original tenants when the wholesale market opened in San Francisco in 1963. Mr. Janis said that he believes that O. Lippi & Co.'s roots reach back to the 1940s, launched by Otto Lippi. His son Leonard Lippi began working in the family business in the mid-1950s.

In January 2003, O. Lippi & Co. was sold to Dennis Martin, who had been employed by the company. Mr. Martin served on the board of directors of the market and ran O. Lippi & Co. until its recent closing.

Despite the "O. Lippi" name remaining, the Lippi family has not been involved in the business since its sale in 2003, Mr. Janis said.

When it closed its doors, O. Lippi & Co. had about a half-dozen employees, Mr. Janis said.

He is seeking to fill the roughly 10,000-square-foot space vacated by O. Lippi & Co., which includes office space, a dock-high warehouse and both newer and older banana ripening rooms.

"Ideally, we're targeting companies that would take advantage of the ripening rooms," Mr. Janis said.

An Internet search revealed that Dole Fresh Fruit Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Dole Food Co. Inc., filed a lawsuit Feb. 2 in California Northern District Court against O. Lippi & Co. seeking $569,000. O. Lippi & Co. Inc., Mr. Martin and his wife, Kathleen, are named as defendants.

Mr. Martin could not be reached for comment prior to The Produce News' deadline for its Feb. 16 issue.