PHILADELPHIA -- A longtime house on the Philadelphia Regional Produce Market, M&C Produce Co. Inc., closed its doors Nov. 6.
William Morgen, secretary-treasurer of the Philadelphia Produce Credit Bureau on the market, said that John Lerro, owner of M&C, "never mentioned to any of us on the market that he would be closing his doors. And he never mentioned it to the credit bureau." Mr. Morgen has learned that Mr. Lerro "has employed an attorney to work out a payout arrangement with all of his creditors," though he did not know the name of the attorney.
"This thing happened so suddenly," he added. "It normally takes a couple weeks for the dust to clear and for whoever [is owed money] to come out of the woodwork. I can tell you from past experience that John Lerro has always had the highest integrity & and he was always very, very concerned with his credit rating" and his good reputation with shippers and suppliers. "It's only a rumor, but people [on the market] are willing to work along with him." Mr. Morgen said that M&C owes its market neighbors about $36,000.
The Produce News was unable to reach Mr. Lerro by press time for its Nov. 16 issue.
An Internet search revealed that M&C has had recent court cases for non- payment on produce. Bear Mountain Orchards Inc. in Aspers, PA, on June 24, sought from M&C a payment of $77,000. Mr. Morgen said that M&C established an arrangement to pay Bear Mountain $2,500 per week for 31 weeks, commencing July 1.
On Oct. 22, a claim was filed in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Division, by Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc. in Oviedo, FL, against M&C for non-payment of $19,922 for produce purchased between June 11 and June 18. Mr. Morgen said that as that filing was recent, it would be "still open."
The Salad Farm LLC in Salinas, CA, filed a $64,000 PACA case against M&C on Oct. 26.
"The dust hasn't cleared yet. That's the best I can say. From past experience and everything else everyone on the market believes, he has the highest integrity," Mr. Morgen said.
Industry indications are that M&C is scheduled to have a unit on the new Philadelphia market, which is slated for completion by the fall of 2010.