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SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- During difficult economic conditions, such as those that exist today, start-up companies are anything but the norm. But for three produce veterans, the time was right to join forces and form their own firm.

Royal Marketing LLC, a produce brokerage that opened July 13, is owned by Michael Goldman, Richard Gale and Richard Carroll, whose varied backgrounds in the industry combine to form a well-rounded team. Their involvement stems from years spent working together at Regal Marketing, a distributor-broker-importer located just across the street from their current location on the main thoroughfare of this central New Jersey suburb.

Mr. Carroll, who started in the industry doing private inspections on imported fruit at cold storages and piers in southern New Jersey, had the longest tenure at Regal, having spent 19 years with the company. Mr. Gale, a former produce buyer at Wakefern Corp., logged 17 years at Regal, and Mr. Goldman, a former owner of distributor Shiff & Goldman, worked at Regal for 13 years following the sale of his own company in 1994.

"The three of us provide a nice complement to one another with our backgrounds," said Mr. Carroll. "With my background in inspections, Mike's dealing with restaurants, bars and school systems, and Richie's direct involvement with chainstores, it's a great team. We work together like clockwork."

Mr. Carroll insists that the split from Regal Marketing was an amicable one for all involved.

"Scottie [Weinstock, president of Regal Marketing Inc.] taught us a lot. We had a good thing over at Regal, and we're just looking to make it bigger and better here on our own," said Mr. Carroll.

Imports will comprise 90-95 percent of the business at Royal Marketing, with the Chilean fruit deal a key part of its business. "But we'll handle anything," said Mr. Goldman, who added that the company would basically follow the import seasons and source items such as clementines, apples, grapes, stone fruit, kiwifruit, figs, chestnuts, ginger and garlic from locations like Chile, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, New Zealand, South Africa, China, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Mr. Gale said that clients have been very receptive to the three partners branching out on their own. "They are already comfortable with us; they simply want to know our new address," he said.

The men also credited office manager Mary Ann Sanservino as being a key to the smooth startup.

"Mary Ann was with Regal for 13 years, so she has a following and knows the business so well," said Mr. Gale. "It has been a nice comfort zone both for us and our clients."

Asked what advantages Royal can offer over other similar businesses, Mr. Carroll replied without missing a beat: "Service."

Mr. Gale expounded on the answer, saying, "We handle so many different items -- up to 50 at any given time -- that we try to meet all of our customers' needs. You can't just sell peppers and cucumbers. If you don't carry a full line or aren't diversified enough today, you're out of business. Especially this time of year, when a lot of shippers don't have complete lines, we will send a truck around to five different warehouses to fill an order so the customer doesn't have to make five different phone calls to try to get that order together. That is just an example of the service that we provide."

While the partners hope to grow the business, they recognize that slow and controlled growth is the proper way to do it.

"We want to keep it under control so we can monitor things," said Mr. Carroll. "We like our business and want to keep our customers happy." Mr. Gale added that they are currently seeking another person to join the sales desk at Royal.

"We have an empty desk here waiting to be filled," he said. "We would be open to a young person looking to break in and learn the industry or an established person who has experience and who would fit in with us. It's tough to find a young person because many don't have the patience to evolve as a broker. There are some days when you don't make any money at all, and a lot of people are not used to that. This is a commission-based business, and some people have it in their mind that they have to earn a salary."