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Philadelphia market ribbon is finally cut

by Tad Thompson | March 29, 2011

PHILADELPHIA -- In what was perhaps the happiest day in the history of Philadelphia's produce industry, a red ribbon was cut March 25 signifying the completion of the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter joined leaders of the industry and other parties who were instrumental in the construction of the market.

John Vena Jr., a board member for the new Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, and Sonny DiCrecchio, executive director of the market, sat on the podium during ribbon cutting ceremonies March 25.

At 700,000 square feet, the market was hailed at the ceremony as "the world's largest refrigerator" and the largest, most modern produce market in the world. If stood on end, the market would be 50 stories higher than the Empire State Building.

The market became legendary for the obstacles that stood in the way of its construction, ultimately making this a 10-year project. Its Essington Avenue location was the fourth construction site to be "officially" announced over the last decade. One of the sites initially became derailed because the first bald eagles' nest ever seen in an urban area appeared on the property.

This market was to have been completed in October 2010. Subsequent delays led to a series of new frustrations. The market's first day to be open for business will be April 3.

Sonny DiCrecchio is the manager of the old Philadelphia Regional Wholesale Produce Market and is now the executive director of the new market. During the ribbon-cutting ceremonies, it was Mr. DiCrecchio's perseverance that repeatedly received credit for overcoming seemingly endless obstacles to create this new market.

Jimmy Storey, the long-time president of the Philadelphia Fresh Food Terminal Corp., also received strong accolades for his work on this project. Mr. Storey, who owns Quaker City Produce, was unable to attend the opening ceremony because he has been ill for several months.

Representing the produce dealers on the podium were market board members John Vena Jr., owner of John Vena Inc., and Louis Penza Jr., vice president of Pinto Bros. Inc.

Mr. DiCrecchio publicly apologized to Brian O'Neill, the developer who built the market, and others involved in construction, for Mr. DiCrecchio's often-hard line and sometimes harsh words.

As the mayor wrapped up the ceremony, he lightly offered that he had hired the television personality known as Dr. Phil to come to Philadelphia to establish peace between all parties. But by that time, Mr. DiCrecchio and Mr. O'Neill had already hugged on stage.

There were smiles all around.