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Premium Produce Distributors Inc. in Nogales, AZ, which was founded in 1990 by Gilbert Munguia Sr. and his son, Gilbert G. (Gil) Munguia Jr., is in the process of closing operations. The younger Mr. Munguia is now operations manager and sales manager at the Nogales office of Raleigh, NC-based L&M Cos., and his father has retired.

Explaining the reason for the decision to close the company, Gil Munguia Jr. told The Produce News Nov. 1, "We had a few customers that went under on us. Rather than walk away from that, we decided to liquidate our assets and pay off our vendors. That is what we have made a commitment to do, and we are doing everything we can to accommodate them and … settle everything with all the produce vendors."

Mr. Munguia said that he “wasn't really planning on doing anything until that was all cleared up and finished,” but then the opportunity to join L&M presented itself, “and it was just such a great fit,” so he took the job. “That was about two or two-and-a-half months ago,” he said.

The people at L&M are “just wonderful people,” he said. “I got a chance to meet them and go back to Raleigh to the headquarters. I’ve been back there twice and spent some time with them and really did enjoy it.”

He has “no regrets at all,” he added. “It has been a terrific transition for me. I can’t say enough nice things about the company and the people and their hospitality and how open they have been in welcoming me into the company.” Before founding Premium, Mr. Munguia and his father were both with Ice Produce Distributors, which was founded by the elder Mr. Munguia’s father, George Ice. Mr. Ice’s son had worked for Ice Produce for about 35 years and his grandson for about 12 years before they founded Premium upon Mr. Ice’s retirement.

Premium operated basically as a distributor of produce grown in the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Sonora. “We had partnerships with various growers,” Mr. Munguia said.

Around 13 years ago, Premium Produce built a 15,000-square-foot warehouse and office facility in the Rio Rico Industrial Park just north of Nogales, adding another 12,000 square feet of refrigerated, humidity- controlled warehouse the following year.

Growers Alliance LLC in Nogales has moved into the Premium Produce facility and may buy it, according to Jorge Quintero Jr., sales manager. “It’s not official yet,” he told The Produce News Nov. 1. “Escrow hasn’t closed” yet. But “in the meantime, we’re here at the warehouse” on a lease basis.