Tony Vitrano, president of Tony Vitrano Co. on the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market in Jessup, MD, told The Produce News Aug. 24 that the company has always handled western fruits and vegetables with the same shippers year round. But local sourcing is on the rise.
“But we’re doing more and more eastern produce, including sourcing from local growers,” said Mr. Vitrano. “Customer demand is driving these changes today. With fuel prices high and consumers more interested in where their food comes from today, the demand for local and regional produce is higher than ever.”
The company handles a full line of fruits and vegetables, with the exception of bananas.
August is a little quiet in the produce business with ongoing vacations and parents getting their kids ready for the upcoming school year. But Tony Vitrano stays steadily busy. “It’s just a typically quiet period in the industry, but as soon as school starts, things flip around quickly and we’re back to moving product fast and steady,” said Mr. Vitrano. “We’re pretty steady, and until this Hurricane Irene threat, there weren’t any major weather issues that were causing problems.”
He added that in the past, it has been pretty much business as usual in situations such as the hurricane. “Fortunately, this one is expected over the weekend, so staff won’t be there,” he said. “But it could cause delays with trucks coming in on Saturday and Sunday. The biggest problem would be if stores are forced to close, which would cause a major demand when they reopen after the storm. Besides that, power outages could be a big problem, so we’re hoping that doesn’t happen.”
Mr. Vitrano noted that the composition of the tenants at the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market has changed over the years, but it is still leased to capacity. He said that there are ongoing physical improvements being done on the market, such as utility and security upgrades, and that management does a good job of keeping up with maintenance and upgrades.
“Some businesses have closed because people retired or due to financial problems, and others have moved off of the market to their own facilities,” said Mr. Vitrano. “They have consolidated or don’t feel they need the walking traffic that the terminal market draws. But any vacant space is taken quickly. We’ve seen Asian and Hispanic companies open on the market to cater to the growing populations of both ethnic communities in the region. On the retail side, many Asians are opening up their own stores, while mainstream grocery stores tend to offer more Hispanic items.
Tony Vitrano also makes continual upgrades to its numerous units in building B at the terminal market, and the company adds new trucks to its fleet as needed.
Mr. Vitrano’s grandfather, also named Tony Vitrano, founded the company in 1932. In 1975, it relocated to the then newly opened market. Mr. Vitrano’s father, Justin Vitrano, and his uncle, Norman Vitrano, are retired.
“But they both come in several days a week to help out,” said Mr. Vitrano. “Several other family members are involved in the business, including my brother, Joe, and several cousins.”