FOREST PARK, GA — What marks the difference between a good year and a great year? How about a 25 percent increase in business, which is what the Nickey Gregory Co. LLC posted over the last 12 months?
Between its headquarters on the Atlanta Farmers Market and a warehouse and mushroom operation in Miami, FL, business is booming and there are no signs of that slowing down any time soon. Owner Nickey Gregory said new state-of-the-art trucks have joined the expanding company fleet, a warehouse expansion will beunderway shortly and the company will soon add a tomato line under its in-house “Cheryl’s Best” label, named after the other owner.
Already Primus GFS certified, Gregory stays ahead of the food-safety curve. That shows in the company’s gleaming offices and warehouses, with thousands of feet of cooler space.
“The more incidents that happen in our industry, the more important it is to stay ahead of food-safety regulations,” Mr. Gregory said. “Why wait two or three years down the road? I want to be safe. I sleep better knowing we’re on top of food safety, we don’t have to worry about any of our products. That weighs a lot on you.”
The company also operates its own fleet of climate-controlled trucks and contracts with independent truckers as needed to service a 750-mile radius from the Atlanta Market covering Georgia, North and South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Mississippi and Louisiana.
“We expanded our fleet and replaced some trucks, the new ones have increased our fuel mileage by at least 1.5 miles per gallon — we went from six to 7.5-8, which makes a lot of difference,” Mr. Gregory said. “They also burn cleaner, so clean the guy in Detroit told us if there’s black smoke take them to the shop because something’s wrong — they put out cleaner air than they take in.” I like the environment too, but we like the better fuel mileage because margins have gotten so narrow, everything we can give back to the customer helps.”
Given its location on the state farmers market, Gregory is working with Georgia officials to expand its warehouse 8,000-12,000 square feet in the next few months. Part of that expansion will be to handle increasing demand for the company’s more than 300 produce items; the rest will house the new tomato packing line.
Along with the increase in business, Mr. Gregory is pleased to see a new generation of workers coming into the produce industry.
“We’ve got a lot of old veterans — as bad as I hate to say it, I am one of the old veterans — but we’ve got a ton of young people here that are really stepping up, which is something I’m glad to see,” Mr. Gregory said. “Between my generation and theirs, we didn’t gain very many people in this industry. We had a gap and it’s good to see these young people coming back into the business.”
Truly a family business involving multiple members from multiple generations, the Nickey Gregory Co. is planning even further into the future to fulfill labor needs: Mr. Gregory has six young grandchildren waiting in the wings.
But, Mr. Gregory said, “I’ve had a talk with my daughters and daughters-in-law. Here lately we’ve had nothing but girls and I told them, ‘Girls, we’ve got to have some boys to load the trucks. We have four girls and two boys and the last two were girls so we need to speed it up.’”