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Market moving toward 60th anniversary celebration

The St. Louis Produce Market plans to unveil its new website (www.stlouisproducemarket.com) in early May. Market Manager Pat Kelley said the site will capture the flavor of the market “then and now,” giving individuals and businesses an opportunity to find out more about the celebrated location.

“We will have some interesting stuff,” Mr. Kelley told The Produce News on May 2. “Our board is revitalizing the market.” The launch will also anticipate the celebration of 60 years of operation for the market in 2013.

The 250,000-square-foot wholesale market StLouisProduceMarket2The St. Louis Produce Market was founded in 1953 and has moved quality fresh produce for nearly 60 years. (Photo courtesy of the St. Louis Produce Market)is located in downtown St. Louis on 35 acres, which contains capacity for future expansion. Mr. Kelley said this is the original footprint of the market from its earliest days. “It was pretty novel back in 1953,” he added.

At the current time, the market — also known to some as Produce Row — is the base of operations for 20 different entities. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has offices at the market to facilitate product distribution. Contact information for each of the tenants as well as links to their individual websites will also be available through the St. Louis Produce Market home page.

It is no coincidence that St. Louis is home to a major wholesale distribution center. The 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair was an attractive global draw. According to Mr. Kelley, 25-30 million people were predicted to visit the venue. “They had to feed them,” he observed.

In 1953, the year the St. Louis Produce Market was founded, St. Louis was a regional railroad hub. Sixty-two years later, “We’ve gone from rail to trucking,” Mr. Kelley stated, adding that 99.9 percent of product sold from the market today is moved via trucks. Commodities are distributed up to 350 miles of the market. By counting gate fees, Mr. Kelley calculated 18,000 trucks move through the market annually.

“We’re always open,” he added.

Food-safety considerations have driven several facility improvements, and the market is taking a proactive posture to meet today’s needs and tomorrow’s demands.

“Food safety is always on our minds,” Mr. Kelley noted. “We have a new entrance with brick columns. We have a new guard shack.” The property is now sporting a wrought iron fence and gate. “We’ve changed the flow of the trucks,” he added. Rear docks are now concrete. The market has also greatly increased the number of security cameras on the property to heighten surveillance.

Cold chain considerations are also important. “We’re 85 percent refrigerated,” Mr. Kelley stated. “We’re 80 percent cold chain.”

The St. Louis Produce Market has reduced costs associated with trash collection and is currently working with officials to address organic waste disposal.

“We’re looking to do organic composting,” Mr. Kelley noted. “It’s like black gold. The city is excited. The state is excited. And USDA is excited.”