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Abasto raises the bar with new San Antonio Terminal Market

Carlos Zambito, director of marketing for Abasto Corp., in his office in McAllen, TX. (Photo by Chip Carter)

McALLEN, TX — Abasto Corp., one of the larger builders of produce terminal markets in south Texas and Mexico, is the force behind the mammoth McAllen Produce Terminal Market and four others in Mexico. Now, after 25 years in business, the company is embarking on its most ambitious project yet: the new San Antonio Wholesale Produce Market, which is due to break ground in 2012.

Abasto has 25 years of expertise in the design, building and operation of produce terminal markets, and a combined total of 1.8-million square feet of warehouse construction. In 1994, the company opened the 450,000-square-foot McAllen market. In 2008, the Warehouse Kingdom, a 300,000-square-foot project for multiple-use businesses in McAllen, opened and is already operating at an 80-percent (and rising) occupancy rate despite the economic uncertainty of recent years. Other U.S. warehouse projects by Abasto include McAllen’s 100,000-square-foot Extension 23rd warehouses, several industrial parks and multiple residential projects. Abasto is among the industry leaders in Mexico, with 600 produce terminal warehouse units, which comprise more than 1 million square feet of space, as well as industrial parks. In 2009, the company received the Federal Government of Mexico’s prestigious Yacatecuhtli Award for the Best Mexican Entrepreneur in the United States & Canada.

But the San Antonio project will top all of the company’s others in scale, with 180 3,100-square-foot units, all prepared for high-tech interior cooling space and available for lease or sale in single, double or multiple units to handle any imaginable produce industry need.

The Warehouse Kingdom is another Abasto project in McAllen, TX. Opened in 2008, the facility is at 80 percent occupancy despite turbulent economic times. (Photo by Chip Carter)

Marketing Director Carlos Zambito calls the new project “a synergy of produce wholesalers united at one state-of-the-art distribution center.” San Antonio is the logical location for a new terminal market, Mr. Zambito said.

“With one of the strongest economies and most strategic locations in Texas, San Antonio offers great opportunities for investors and companies seeking to expand or relocate to a bountiful new market,” he said.

San Antonio is America’s seventh-largest city and Texas’ second-largest and fastest- growing with more than 1.3 million residents. Additionally, 25-million tourists flock there annually, making it a beehive of foodservice activity. Forbes Magazine recently ranked San Antonio as the second-most recession-proof city in the country.

The San Antonio Wholesale Produce Market will service a 200-mile radius and is positioned to become the primary source of wholesale produce for San Antonio and neighboring cities like Austin, Houston and San Marcos. Due to its strategic location, it can also serve double-duty as a consolidation center for companies that intend to distribute produce farther into other cities in the United States, Mexico or both.

The new market will be located on San Antonio’s Highway South 410 loop, with easy access to major highways. All units are prepared for cold-chain management and feature two rear-elevated loading and unloading docks, two front doors for light loads, cooler space for up to 180 pallets per unit, along with ample parking and 24-hour security and surveillance.

Mr. Zambito said that among the market’s more important aims is “to significantly boost the distribution of local fresh produce in the area and thus encourage healthier eating habits for its residents. At the same time, we want to support local and regional growers in obtaining a more-efficient farm-to-market distribution by enabling a closer and more direct channel, hence facilitating a reduction in prices to consumers.”

The San Antonio market is expected to create at least 1,000 jobs initially, and Mr. Zambito hopes that it will “enable the city to become the most important regional wholesale distribution center of fresh produce in the U.S.A.”

According to the Small Business Development Center National Information Clearinghouse, a department within the Institute for Economic Development at the University of Texas-San Antonio, the new market has the potential to be one of the larger employment centers in San Antonio. By the end of year four at 80 percent occupancy, the total economic impact on the San Antonio area is expected to approach $265 million and support 1,660 jobs.

That same study found that the new market could boost produce supply in Texas and affect farmers by providing infrastructure to accommodate brokers and wholesalers, offering cooling and repacking capabilities that shorten the supply chain and reduce farm waste.

The study also shows that the market could have a positive impact on related industries, including institutional and foodservice, by reducing local produce prices, enabling a wider variety of produce in a single location and trimming links from the supply chain, extending shelf life and giving San Antonians access to the freshest supply of produce possible.

“This area is going to keep on growing,” Mr. Zambito said. “Lately we’ve begun to get people out of the Nogales, AZ, area looking to attack the markets on the U.S. East Coast. We’re very optimistic for the future. Mexico is growing and bringing us a lot of business, and we’re planning on growing with it.”