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Massive expansion shows tide has turned along the Delaware River

A future major expansion into New Jersey by Manfredi Cold Storage beyond its massive Kennett Square, PA, facility reflects the nation’s economic times — and the expansion of the Delaware Valley’s perishable trade.

Frank Manfredi Sr. is a partner with his brother, John Manfredi, in owning the Manfredi Cos. Frank Manfredi heads the cold storage side of that business.

Shortly before the September 2008 market crash, Frank Manfredi purchased land in a southern New Jersey industrial park to build a 174,000-square-foot cold storage. It was his plan to extend the resources of cold storage, consolidation and distribution resources of the Manfredi Cos.’ 400,000-square-foot Pennsylvania operation located not too many miles across the Delaware River.

Manfredi-KennettAn aerial photo shot this spring of the 400,000-square-foot Kennett Square, PA, facility of Manfredi Cold Storage.Manfredi said his son, Frank Manfredi Jr., has assumed the New Jersey project, working with local building permit officials and focusing upon all other such endless details. Manfredi’s daughter, Jacki Manfredi Basciani, continues to lead the corporate sales effort and develop transportation efficiencies.

But with the market changes, “the dollar sagged, the economy went down and fruit imports declined,” Manfredi noted. Despite the economic lag in 2009, 2010 and 2011, “We stayed busy but not the ‘busy’ to expand the operation.”

By 2014, “we decided to sell our property in New Jersey. We decided to stay in Kennett Square” only. Manfredi launched into another of many expansions at home, this being an additional 70,000 square feet of cold storage. That construction will soon be completed.

Then, the economy turned upward and “our phone started to ring. It was the people we see at trade shows. Their organizations are staffed on the Jersey side of the river and they didn’t want to have to move their organization to the Pennsylvania side to work with Manfredi. First, there was one phone call. Then there were two” and Manfredi started to think the tide had turned. “When I got the third and fourth call, I wondered if I’d made the right decision to sell the land. But this was good and bad news. The bad news was that the land was sold. The good news was that the facility wouldn’t have been big enough, anyway.”

In March 2017, Manfredi purchased acreage from a private couple in Pedricktown, NJ. This location will accommodate Manfredi’s long-term plans for a 600,000-square-foot facility. By comparison, the sprawling Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market is only slightly larger at 686,000-square feet.

Ground in Pedricktown is expected to be broken late this fall. Construction will begin in spring 2018. As has been the method over decades in Kennett Square, the New Jersey facility will conservatively be expanded in stages. First, 70,000 square feet and appropriate office space will be built. Building plans accommodate three stories of administrative offices as the facility expands.

Manfredi said there are verbal commitments but written contracts won’t come “until they see bricks and mortar.”

The Pedricktown site is between the Holt family’s Gloucester Marine Terminal in Gloucester City, NJ, and the new seaport in nearby Paulsboro, NJ. Philadelphia’s Packer Avenue container terminal in is not much further. A short drive to the south is the Delaware Memorial Bridge, which lands in Delaware,a few minutes from the Port of Wilmington and 20 minutes further to Manfredi’s Kennett Square facility.

Manfredi wants his facility to be considered a distribution center, not simply cold storage, serving not only fruit importers.

“We also want to market to retailers, who have transportation costs as their biggest problem.” John Manfredi has long provided local and long-distance reefer truck hauling services. Frank said the local drayage business is being expanded to help retailers consolidate loads from the river’s many ports. In 2018, when truckers nationally are required to move to electronic logs for their daily driving hours, their time will become especially precious. It will not be an effective use of their valuable time in $175,000-rigs to drive along the river to pick up partial loads. Instead, that short-haul work can be done by those who are not-so-pressed by the clock. In Manfredi’s plan, over-the-road digital logs can start as they leave Manfredi facilities with full truckloads.

Manfredi’s firm streamlines its consolidation business with racking layouts that are only one or two pallets deep. This enables very fast load building, compared to the experience of some of his customers who have faced pallet racks that are five- to seven-deep. “I don’t have to dig for the pallet they want.”