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Hard work helps Tom Lange Co. prosper during turbulent times

by Chip Carter | December 06, 2010
A diversified client base and a hard-working staff keep the Mesquite, TX, branch of the Tom Lange Co. hopping.

In fact, Darrell Wolven, vice president of sales, wonders what happened to the extra free time technology was supposed to bring to the modern workplace.

"Technology is supposed to make our lives easier, and I suppose it has, but it definitely hasn't cut down on the amount of time we spend working," Mr. Wolven said. “Especially nowadays with the Internet and cell phones and smartphones and texts, we work more hours than we ever have.”

Mr. Wolven is not complaining — just explaining why the Lange gang always seems to be at work.

The company handles a full line of produce for a variety of clients, including retailers, wholesalers and institutional customers. That balance allowed the Lange Co. to weather tough economic times and has it poised for an even brighter future.

Despite a troubled economy, “We really haven’t changed that much in the last couple of years,” Mr. Wolven said. “We’re pretty much doing the same things we always did. We’re broken up between chains stores and wholesalers and institutional purveyors. It’ll change a little bit from time to time. You’ll get a new customer where you’ll do more institutional business, or add a new wholesaler, but I do believe we stay pretty evenly distributed, which I think has certainly helped us stay busy over the past couple of years, no doubt.”

The Texas economy has been the most solid in the nation during recessionary times, another factor that has helped Lange’s Mesquite office.

“I think sometimes it’s hard for us to judge that, not being hands-on with what happens around the rest of the country,” said Mr. Wolven. “We’ve seen a definite downturn in business, as have all our competitors, but whether it’s as bad as it is elsewhere, I don’t know. And we haven’t had a lot of bad debt, knock on wood. That might be one thing that shows our economy in Texas is doing better than elsewhere. We’re proud of the state and how our economy has held up, but I can’t necessarily say that’s one of the reasons we’ve been successful — but I guess maybe it is. Whatever the reason, business is good and Tom Lange delivers. The [state] government has business in general on the top — they want business, they support business in our state, whether it is through tax breaks, legislation, whatever. Business in general is good in Texas.”

And while not much has changed at Lange in the last couple of years, there have been recent personnel moves.

Stacey Bailey joined the team as the new administrative assistant, Brandon Powell has come aboard on the transportation and logistics side, and longtime employee Tim Rose is now the branch sales manager.

The Tom Lange Co. was founded in 1960 in St. Louis and opened its first branch four years later in Springfield, IL. In 1968, another branch opened in Indianapolis. Continued expansion through the 1970s and 1980s added offices in Oklahoma City, Houston, Wichita, KS, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Salinas, CA, Philadelphia, Boston, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Monett, MO.

In 1992, the Lange Trading Co. Inc. was formed to focus on trade in the southwestern United States and Mexico.

In 1994, the company’s first international office was launched in Toronto at the Ontario Food Terminal Market. Two more spin-offs, Global Fresh Import & Export Inc. and Lange Logistics were formed in 2002 to secure and ship produce worldwide.

Today, the company services thousands of customers from dozens of locations around the globe.