Mike Badalament, sales associate for Ram Produce Distributors LLC, located on the Detroit Terminal Market, told The Produce News that the company’s expertise is predominantly in tomatoes.
“But we also handle peppers, zucchini and other vegetables,” said Mr. Badalament. “And we have a strawberry deal and a kiwifruit program. Our line includes some Hispanic items, and we’re strong in onions, gourmet vegetables, such as dried Porcini mushrooms, Belgium endive, radicchio, peeled garlic, ginger and a full line of lettuces.The line also includes beans, leafy greens, peapods, asparagus and squashes.”
Ram Produce has been on the terminal market since 1987. The company’s customers are major wholesalers, independent and major chain retailers and the category that encompasses farm markets, fruit stands and gourmet stores. It distributes in Detroit and outlying Michigan cities, as well as in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and into Canada.
“Many of the fruit markets in Detroit have morphed over the years and evolved into more gourmet types of stores,” Mr. Badalament explained. “Their operations are now organized in separate specialty areas with wine sections, international bread departments and cheese caves. Some even have sommeliers on staff. Many offer prepared food, and some have a catering division. These companies do an outstanding job.”
Regarding the negative media attention about Detroit, such as the sluggish economy, the downfall of the automobile industry and the high crime rate, Mr. Badalament said that Detroit is simply an easy media target. But Ram Produce is not dependent on Detroit alone for its business. Even nearby, other cities are thriving and doing well. Mr. Badalament said that ethnic groups now represent a large portion of the population in the area.
“We have a very heavy Arab population, and they tend to eat produce items such as dates and okra. Our produce line has evolved to accommodate the growing demand for these items, and today a lot of our customers come in from other states to buy them from us. This movement has had a huge influence on us and has added to the diversity of what we handle.”
Ram Produce, Mr. Badalament said, is a highly progressive, but down-to-earth company.
“There is a tremendous amount of buying and selling experience combined in our staff,” he said. “Even the young people here were raised in this business. I remember when our owner, Mike Bommarito, used to come into the office as a young child, hanging onto his dad’s pant leg. And like the majority of people in Detroit, he is very much a down-to-earth guy.
“I could not ask for a better guy to work for,” he continued. “His door is always open. Everyone here has a huge amount of experience. No one came into the company holding the position they do today — they all evolved into their titles and responsibilities.”
The company is also progressive in how it continually evolves. Two years ago it added about 10,000 square feet to its terminal operation. Last year it renovated its packinglines at its corporate office, located about a mile from the terminal market.
“We are always doing something to move forward,” said Mr. Badalament. “We have added an entirely new computer system to make us more efficient. The system blends itself with all of the requirements that are needed today, such as country of origin. And we can expand on the new software program when we want to.”