Top Katz Brokers LLC, headquartered in the New York City terminal market, has an office and warehouse in Nogales, AZ, and has been involved in the Nogales deal for the last 13 years, according to Paul Manfre, general manager.
“We have our own facility there” and offer a range of services, he said. “We buy and sell produce. We do ins and outs. We do brokering. We have people that pack for us using our own label — the ‘Bloom Fresh’ label — in Mexico, and we cross [the products] into Nogales.” The warehouse serves as “a distribution center where we can consolidate loads, inspect loads, take pictures of loads. And we post pictures on our web site every day” showing the products “that we load in Nogales,” he said.
In the past, Top Katz bought product in Nogales for customers “and delivered it,” Mr. Manfre said. “We have a very good crew in Nogales that inspects loads, consolidates and ships our product.” And now Top Katz is offering the inspection and consolidation service to customers whether Top Katz buys the products on the customers’ behalf or want to buy it on its own.
Even when people do their own buying, they often want or need for someone to look at the product before and when it loads, “because, quite honestly, if something is $5.95 f.o.b., there could be a big range in difference” in the quality of the product available for that price,” he said. “You could get the best squash for $5.95 or the worst squash for $5.95.”
“We are offering our bird-dogging services at our warehouse,” and in-and-out services, “not tied into us having to actually purchase it for you,” he said. Although Top Katz has “a lot of deals that directly benefit our customers and our shippers,” he said that if customers “choose not to participate, that is their prerogative.”
Top Katz handles a full range of produce items, “everything that they do in Nogales and then some,” he said. Among the big items for the company are all colors of Bell peppers, cucumbers, various types of soft squash, “all the hard squash” such as Butternut, Acorn, Spaghetti and Kabocha, various items in the tomato category, such as Romas, tomatoes on the vine and grape tomatoes, eggplant and jalapeños.
“We do eggplant, colored Bell peppers and squash in our label,” he said.
The company’s customer base is diverse, consisting of “retailer, foodservice, wholesale distributors, terminal markets — we do it all,” Mr. Manfre said. Distribution is principally to the Midwest and East Coast, but not exclusively. “We sell stuff into Arizona, we sell stuff into California,” he said.
Sales are generated from the New York office, he said.
“For 15 years, I’ve been involved in Nogales, and 35 years in the produce business,” Mr. Manfre said. “I started with a push cart on the corner” in Manhattan. Visualizing that description, one cannot help viewing his career as a prototypical American success story. His response: “I don’t know if it has been a success, but it is a lot of fun. I still love it after all these years. I still get up for work early morning every day and still love it.”
Top Katz imports products from many different countries, “but Mexico is our biggest import deal,” Mr. Manfre said. In addition to its Nogales office, the company has an office in McAllen, TX, which opened last year to receive, inspect, consolidate and distribute products coming in from Mexico. As more volume is “going that way, we wanted to capitalize on that,” he said. It is big now “and getting bigger, and we wanted to get bigger with it.”
Top Katz opened the McAllen and Nogales offices “to have our own people” looking at the product “so we can make better decisions, ship better product and service our customers better. That is why we did it,” he said, “and that is why we continue to do it.”