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Philadelphia merchants upbeat as cutting-edge market picks up steam

PHILADELPHIA — In May 2012, close to one year after the new Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market opened for business, Mark Levin, chief executive officer of M. Levin & Co., told The Produce News, "If I were a box of produce, the PWPM is where I'd want to be."

On March 27, 2013, he reiterated his opinion that the market is the perfect place for the handling and movement of fresh fruits and vegetables.

"Things are moving smoothly, P1010888Jamie Terreri, sales tracker for John Vena Inc. at the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, displaying a Dosekai melon.and the facility is a joy to work in," said Mr. Levin. "Just look around you. This facility is clean, efficient and safe. Our customers are happy and our [own] business continues to grow with the fourth generation of all women helping to move us forward."

The new facility is also at least part of the reason behind some companies pushing forward with new programs and concepts.

"Our Asian and Hispanic line of specialty fruits and vegetables continues to grow, and we add to it as we come across new and interesting items," Jamie Terreri, sales and customer service representative for John Vena Inc., said as she handed out samples of Mamey and Chipote. "These items are really interesting. For example, when you cut into a Dosekai melon, you realize that it smells like a cucumber."

John Vena operates from five units at the PWPM. The company handles a full line of fresh herbs, greenhouse vegetables, tropical and exotic fruits, baby vegetables and numerous lines of ethnic specific fruits and vegetables geared to Asian, Indian and Hispanic cuisines.

New things are popping at Procacci Bros., such as the company's large and expanding fruit basket line, which now has its own online store in addition to the company's traditional work with its retail customers.

"We are really excited about our new authentic Grape tomato and 'Ugly Ripe' tomato plants," Kevin M. Delaney, director of marketing at Procacci Bros., told The Produce News. "We know that our retail customers are interested in the display racks of these plants for their floral departments, and we are working to convince them that they should also be in produce departments."

Spring is definitely in the air at the PWPM. Racks of herbs, boxes of tropical fruits and vegetables, such as Brooks Tropicals' Caribbean Red papaya on display at E.W. Kean Co. Inc., fill the eyes with color as one strolls down the wide, spotless aisle of the market.

(Full coverage of the PWPM will be appear in the May 6 edition of The Produce News.)