Heritage: Hudson River Fruit living the American Dream


James Truslow Adams coined the term “American Dream” in his 1931 book The Epic of America. His American Dream was for “a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

It is a national ethos that makes people proud and appreciative of their heritage and the opportunities America has made possible.3.-3-Generations-2017Harold Albinder, Alisha Albinder and Daniel Albinder in the fall of 2017.

Hudson River Fruit Distributors Inc., based in Milton, NY, is a perfect example of the American Dream. Now in its fourth generation of management, the company is a leading apple grower and producer that is well known and respected throughout the produce industry.

In 1932, Isadore (Izzy) Albinder immigrated to the United States from Russia. When he arrived in New York, he recognized an opportunity to broker fresh produce. He bought a pushcart and began selling fresh produce on the neighborhood streets of Brooklyn.

“After some time, Izzy began having trouble finding apples that he considered high enough quality,” said Alisha Albinder, fourth-generation family member and operations manager for the company. “He decided to venture up to the Hudson Valley to source the produce directly. He began fostering relationships with apple growers, some of whom Hudson River Fruit Distributors continues to work with still today.”

6.-1st-Generation-Izzy--Ida-1First generation in 1995: Isadore Albinder and Ida Albinder.Apples became the stronghold of Albinder’s business. In the late 1950s, his son, Harold Albinder, joined his father working full-time. In 1963, Izzy and Harold incorporated the business under the name Hudson River Fruit Distributors Inc.

A few years later, they jointly purchased their own packinghouse, which is still in operation today.

“In 1967, they bought their first orchard in an effort to have better control of the apples they were selling,” explained Albinder. “By 1972, with the purchase of their eighth orchard, the company owned and operated more than 1,000 acres of cultivated land. With the exception of one farm that is in Vermont, all of the acreage is in the Hudson Valley.”

She added that her grandfather, Harold (a.k.a. “Chief Dog”), was persistent in all his endeavors and took many calculated risks to build the business to what it is today.

“My grandfather is still very active in the business,” she noted. “He manages incoming raw fruit and grower relations.”

The company continued to grow, both business- and family-wise over the years. Albinder’s father, Daniel, joined the company in 1980. He learned every aspect of the business from the ground up.

4.-Danny--AlishaDanny and Alisha Albinder in 1995.“My dad has worked in the orchards, the packinghouse, in shipping and receiving and sales,” said Albinder. “During his tenure running the sales desk, along with the help of his father, he more than doubled the size and scale of the business. He now currently holds the title of chief operating officer.”

The company was delivered a blow in 1996 when a tragic electrical fire burned the Hudson River Fruit Distributors’ main facility to the ground.

“The company never missed a business beat,” said Albinder. “We immediately found a new location to work from and continued to fill orders and care for the orchards, literally picking up where they left off prior to the fire.”

The Albinders decided that rather than try to salvage any ruins remaining from the fire, they would build a new facility from the ground up. It opened in 1996.

Izzy Albinder died in 2005.

In 2013, Alisha joined the company working in operations, sales and marketing. Before joining the family business, she graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in finance and entrepreneurship, and she worked as a produce buyer for Fresh Direct.

“Alisha has brought a fresh new perspective to Hudson River Fruit Distributors, focusing on operational efficiently, marketing and sales,” said Dan Albinder. “She is an innovative thinker and has created multiple new packaging and marketing tools to promote New York state-grown apples. She sits on the board of the New York Apple Association and the New York State Horticulture Society, and she was elected to the United Fresh Leadership class of 23.”

Hudson River Fruit Distributors continues to grow, and in numerous directions. In 2015, it purchased a new 50-acre orchard, removed the abandoned trees and planted 35,000 high-density apple trees.

Also in 2015, the company installed a state-of-the-art, high-speed packingline, which doubled its production.

“We now sell more than 2 million bushels of apples a year,” Harold Albinder said. “We work with more than 50 growers throughout New York state, and we are a grower-packer-shipper, shipping 11 months out of the year. In our mix of apple varieties, we are growing and distributing the newest New York state proprietary apples, SnapDragon and RubyFrost, which are being well received at market and by consumers.”

He added that Hudson River Fruit Distributors began importing apples about a decade ago. It imports Sonya, Breeze, Cheekie, Gala and Fuji apple varieties from New Zealand. Its import program also includes some organic apples.

In January, third-generation family member Kevin Albinder started with the company as logistics coordinator. He has had experience working with growers, packers and shippers and “He is a quick learner,” said Alisha.

“Marcela Juarez also joined us in January as an in-house inspector for all inbound, outbound and satellite packinghouses,” she continued. “Marcela has years of experience working in apple packinghouses, as well as food-safety audits like BRC, GlobalGAP and U.S. Department of Agriculture. We are very excited to welcome both Kevin and Marcela to our team.”

Although the company is proud to be family-owned-and-operated, it is also grateful and dedicated to its team members who have contributed to the company’s success over the years.

“This certainly includes Pat Ferrara, our sales director for the past 14 years,” said Albinder. “He has done an outstanding job of marketing New York state apples for Hudson River Fruit Distributors.”

The company is also excited to have received two grants in 2018.

“One, from New York Economic State Development, is for facility expansion and upgrades to our controlled atmosphere rooms,” said Albinder. “The other is from Recharge NY, an energy conservation program for businesses that meet certain criteria.”

She also pointed out that the company now handles more than 25 apple varieties.

“We will celebrate our 55th year in business in 2018,” she noted. “Our success is attributed to the hands-on culture at Hudson River Fruit Distributors. We live and grow in the pristine Hudson Valley. Our family is extremely involved every step of the way. And we have a great team, all of whom we could not do without.”

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