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Mandolini trade history approaches 80 years

CHICAGO — It was almost 80 years ago that Greg Mandolini’s great-grandfather, Primo Mandolini, entered Chicago’s produce industry. He started as an industry salesman and then became a partner in starting-up Gianukos & Mandolini. Eventually, Primo Mandolini bought out his partners. Greg Mandolini has run Mandolini Co. since the mid-1980s.

In 2002 he participated in the move from Chicago’s South Water Street Market to the Chicago International Produce Market. That move “has been great. We never realized how hamstrung we were without dock-level receiving.” Among other features, the new market removed elevators from the produce warehousing equation. “In the old days, we would hand-load 1,100 apples off a truck, then take them up an elevator and stack them on the floor. And then we’d get an order for 300 apples.”

Mandolini continues to handle apples to this day, although pallets, modern refrigeration and loading docks have significantly improved operations. California, Florida, South Africa, and Chilean citrus are also part of Mandolini offerings, as well as stone fruit, pears and grapes from major shipping points, including California, Chile, Mexico and Brazil.

“Business is steady although the winter was tough. Snow closed the market for the first time in my recollection,” he said.

Mr. Mandolini said that, as of June 1, his firm will begin using ProduceMan Software, which is a company located in Half Moon Bay, CA. He said the move will enable Mandolini Co. to track traceability issues, analyze his business better and serve customers more effectively and efficiently.

By eliminating data entry, “we will eliminate errors and bumps in the road will disappear,” he said.