PHILADELPHIA — Beyond the expense that all 26 produce companies took to move from the old Philadelphia market into the new terminal, M. Levin & Co. Inc. is investing $1 million to build banana-ripening rooms, according to Mark Levin, company president.
The Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market’s executive director Sonny DiCrecchio observed, “Nothing really states the confidence in the market like the investment the Levins have put in. It was quite a chance to take and they never wavered from the beginning.”
Mr. Levin said, “Everyone on the market has the same vested interest we have, except we are paying $1 million for new banana rooms. We plan on being here for the long haul.”
Mr. Levin is a partner with three cousins in signing the 40-year market lease. He half-joked that his generation is going to be responsible for the first half of the lease, while the next generation, which happens to be all women, will have to finish the lease.
Levin’s new banana rooms will ripen 14 trailers a week. Construction of the rooms was to be completed by July 1.
The firm will continue to ripen another 25 banana loads a week several miles away at its brick facility, which faces the old market. Levin also had units on the old market. The company’s pallet space has doubled in the new facility.
Mr. Levin said that his firm built its brick warehouse outside the old market, which was constructed in 1959, because there was not much room within the market for banana-ripening space. The situation remains the same in 2011.
“If we wanted all the space we need in the market, that would have been for another three or four units,” he said. “Fourteen loads a week ought to be enough to start.”
He added that the company might be able to expand its space in the new market by acquiring units at a later time. The market opens fully occupied.
M. Levin has no immediate plans to change its product lines despite the move to the new market. “We plan to do what we did better and more efficiently.”
He said that one simple efficiency is the ability to quickly find customer vehicles, because all of the market’s loading docks are numbered. On the old market, finding the right vehicle required “spending half your time wandering around.”
Because of the cold chain in the new facility, “already, shrink is down. We had to sell our samples every day,” said Mr. Levin.
Furthermore, “there are not as many broken packages because customers know that every package they take is good,” he said.
Mr. Levin was six years old in 1959 when the market moved from the Dock Street market in downtown Philadelphia to the more recent location in the Food Distribution Center on Galloway Street. He said he doesn’t expect to see the next market move.