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R.A.M. Produce Distributors: Progressive and innovative

Mike Badalament, sales associate for R.A.M. Produce Distributors LLC, located at the Detroit Terminal Market, told The Produce News that the company’s expertise is predominantly in tomatoes.

“We also handle peppers, zucchini and other vegetables,” said Mr. Badalament. “We also have a strawberry deal and a kiwifruit program, and we handle some Hispanic items.”

R.A.M. Produce has been on the terminal market since 1987. The company’s customers are major wholesalers, independent and major chain retailers and the category that encompasses farm markets, fruit stands and gourmet stores. It distributes in Detroit and outlying Michigan cities, as well as in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and into Canada.

“A lot of the fruit markets have morphed over the years and evolved into more gourmet types of stores,” Mr. Badalament explained. “Their operations are now organized in separate specialty areas with wine sections, international bread departments and cheese caves. Some even have sommeliers on staff. Many offer prepared food, and some have a catering division. They do an outstanding job.”

Mr. Badalament and his wife became involved with the Slow Food International, a nonprofit ,member-supported association that aims to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

“Through the meetings and experiences, we see how organics and the overall concept of food originated and evolved,” said Mr. Badalament. “I come into contact with lot of terrific chefs through this program and have learned that they love Michigan because the population here is so strongly ethnic. People brought their food traditions with them from wherever they came from.”

Michigan, he added, has a large Mediterranean and Middle Eastern population, which is especially strong in Dearborn. “Sometimes my wife and I drive to Dearborn just to enjoy the food because it is such a great experien

He noted that years ago, when migration into Michigan was strong, cities were divided into ethnic groups. “Today they’ve sort of melded together, and the gourmet stores now offer foods from every ethnic group,” he said.

Another strong influence on Detroit has been its strong relationship with Windsor, ON, which is separated from Detroit only by the Detroit River. Many intermarriages and strong relationships have evolved, which gives both cities a mix of Canadian and American style.

R.A.M. Produce, Mr. Badalament said, is a highly progressive, but down-to-earth company.

“There is a tremendous amount of buying and selling experience combined in our staff,” he said. “Even the young people here were raised in this business. I remember when our owner, Mike Bommarito, used to come into the office as a young child, hanging onto his dad’s pant-leg. And like the majority of people in Detroit, he is very much a down-to-earth guy.”

The company last year it added about 10,000 square feet to its terminal operation. This year it is renovating its packing lines at its corporate office, located about a mile from the terminal market.

“We are always doing something to move forward,” said Mr. Badalament. “We are now in the process of upgrading all of our software, and we will be in full tow by March or sooner.”

He noted that Detroit has always been a “bootstraps” town.

“Everyone is feeling economic pressures today, but people love this city and they always return to it,” he said. “I think we’ll have a great rebound under the right political leadership. We’re used to rolling up our sleeves and getting down to work. Everyone else might be talking down about Detroit, but we are always talking it up.”