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Edward G. Rahll strongly focused on locally grown since inception

Now in its third generation of management, Edward G. Rahll & Sons Inc., located at the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market in Jessup, MD, is heavy into a full line of fresh produce, including a full line of herbs, and ethnic, specialty and exotic items. It still maintains its traditional line of commodity produce, including tomatoes, potatoes and onions, which it has handled for decades. Citrus from Florida and California, melons, and stone fruits are also important items in the company’s line of fresh produce. But meeting locally grown demand has always been and continues to be a priority for the firm.

T.J. Rahll is a third-generation family member to operate the company. “One of the biggest things for us today is filling the locally grown demand. But as a generational family business, working with local farmers has always been a major part of what we do,” Mr. Rahll told The Produce News Aug. 24. “On average, we work with between 50 and 60 local farmers on a regular basis at all times. Our company has always, and always will, strive to be one of the biggest suppliers of local produce in our distribution area.”

From late fall to early spring, the company sources from other growing regions.

Edward G. Rahll founded the firm at the Pulaski Highway produce market in 1953. His son Tom Rahll (who is T.J.’s father) was at the helm until a few years ago, when he retired.

Today, the company occupies numerous units in building A at the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market.

Mr. Rahll said that the company is continually working on its food-safety initiatives. “We take food safety as a personal commitment,” he said. “We have a solid vision of what we want our facility to look like. Our own goals, combined with those of the market management, result in keeping the market in updated condition.”

MWPM opened in 1975 and is now over 35 years old. But tenants like Edward G. Rahll say that the location is so good that to build a modern market elsewhere would be foolish. “For us, it’s more about making what we have work,” said Mr. Rahll. “Over time, the tenants will work together to figure out ways to update the existing facility. In the meantime, the market is being continually updated with new electricity, advanced security systems and other improvements.”

The Asian and Hispanic populations in the mid-Atlantic states continue to grow and expand. Mr. Rahll said that communities today are strongly influenced by these groups. “Restaurants and stores continue to open to cater to this population,” he said. “And we continue to expand our line to provide them with the products they want. Many ethnic grocery stores, particularly those with a strong Asian culture, are opening in the area today.”

Mr. Rahll said that businesses at the Jessup market are not finding any competitive pressure caused by the newly opened Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market. “I’ve heard that rents there are pretty high, and that could send more customers our way based on better pricing. But I haven’t seen that happen yet. I really don’t think it’s going to affect us in any way.”

Mr. Rahll continued, “It’s been a good year. It’s more of a quiet year, not a lot of upheaval, and so far fairly disaster free. Never say never, because it never is completely that way, but we’ll take the smooth sailing as long as we can have it.”

In the two days following The Produce News’ conversation with Mr. Rahll, Hurricane Irene began bearing down on the East Coast. On Friday, Aug. 26, he said, “I repeat, never say never. We’re making sure that nothing is loose outside and that the roof is secure, and the trailers will be put in the safest possible place. But other than that, there’s not a whole lot we can do. Unfortunately, it’s just a wait and see situation.

“Natural disasters are never fortunate,” he continued. “But we are lucky that this is happening over the weekend when employees will not be here, and so will not be at risk of injury. And we’re not loading up on inventory of produce just in case business is slow at the beginning of next week.”