VINELAND, NJ — Arbittier Farms has been a constant in the south Jersey produce deal for a long time, with roots going back 80 years. The company took a major step a couple of years ago to keep the company going forward and continue its successful run.
Dan Del Monte bought the company in September 2009 from longtime owner Howard Arbittier and has been instituting a number of changes and innovations to keep the company competitive and growing, Mr. Del Monte told The Produce News May 11 at the company’s headquarters here.
One of his early innovations was to computerize the organization. It also launched a web site, and it will be upgrading that site soon.
Another change: The company for many years had been a seasonal firm, concentrating primarily on the local season, which generally runs from the beginning of April through Thanksgiving. And while Mr. Del Monte has maintained the firm’s commitment to the “very important” Jersey Fresh program, he has extended the operation to where it now operates all year long.
There also are some new (and not-so-new) faces at the company.
Ron Bassetti, whose family is well known in local circles going back many, many years, is a buyer at the company and also handles logistics. “Ron has over 20 years in the industry,” noted Mr. Del Monte. “He is an integral part of our growth.”
Mr. Del Monte’s two sons are both in college — Dan Jr., 21, is at Monmouth University studying finance, while Vincent, 19, is at Pennsylvania College of Technology, studying construction manager — and both have been helping out at the company during non-school time. Will they join the company at some point? “We hope so,” Mr. Del Monte responded.
Clare Marolda, who has been with the company over 24 years, is the office manager and generally “runs the office,” offered Mr. Del Monte.
But perhaps the most important personnel “change” is that Howard Arbittier, 67, continues to work at the company about 40 hours per week in sales and as a consultant to the new owner.
Asked why he continued to work at the company after selling to Mr. Del Monte, Mr. Arbittier replied, “I do it because I like him. He can take the company to another level. And boy oh boy, that’s good.”
In fact, the two men seem almost like partners more than anything else, with mutual respect and admiration. “We work very well together,” Mr. Arbittier said with pride. “And that’s important.”
For his part, Mr. Del Monte noted that his assembled team allows him to concentrate on a number of projects that will help him to take his company to that next level that Mr. Arbittier spoke about.
“I try to set up an organization with different departments,” said Mr. Del Monte, so that in addition to his sales and other day-to-day responsibilities, he now has time to devote to customer development and other new ideas. Also, “I can travel around to meetings” and meet face to face with new and prospective clients, he stated. “It’s all about relationships and networking.”
Expanding the line
The company has long been a vegetable wholesaler specializing in herbs; going forward, Mr. Del Monte plans to continue or even increase that commitment as well as to add a line of fresh fruits for its clients.
Those clients are primarily wholesalers and retailers along the Eastern Seaboard, from Massachusetts in the East to Florida in the South and as far west as the Mississippi River, he noted.
While the company continues to be known in the industry as Arbittier Farms, Mr. Del Monte plans to change the formal name to Del Monte Farms LLC in the next 12 to 18 months — but with Mr. Arbittier right by his side.
“He has picked up and learned so much in such a short period of time,” Mr. Arbittier stated with affection. “I can’t believe it. That’s why I enjoy working here so much.”