(Jan. 29) DENVER, Pa. — For some time, Ron Carkoski had been looking to expand the reach of Four Seasons Produce Inc.

Now, having purchased Weslaco, Texas-based shipper Sol Fresh Produce Inc., Four Seasons has done just that.

Four Seasons, a 27-year-old produce distributor based in Denver, has purchased 3-year-old Sol Fresh Produce and folded it in with its Donna, Texas-based affiliate, Four Seasons Trading Co.

Also part of the deal is a new Sol Fresh facility in Nogales, Ariz., which in its initial stages of operation has been bringing in five to eight loads of product per day, compared to the 25 brought in through the company’s Texas branch.

The deal creates a new entity, Four Seasons Trading LP, which anticipates a product volume of about 12 million boxes in 2004, combining the projected 4.8 million of Four Seasons Trading and the 7.4 million of Sol Fresh Produce, Carkoski said.

The volume figures exclude product that comes through the Arizona operation, for which yearly figures were not available, Carkoski said.

Financial terms of the deal, which the companies expected to finalize Jan. 30, were not disclosed.

The new company will be run independently of the Pennsylvania operation, Carkoski said.

The match was a natural for Four Seasons, which had been looking for supply sources in Mexico and Central and South America — inroads that Sol Fresh Produce had already established, said Carkoski, president and chief executive officer of Four Seasons Produce.

“Four Seasons Trading has worked for the past seven years in importing Mexican and Central and South American products and shipping it in through its facilities in southern Texas, and Sol Fresh Produce’s owners, Curtis and Kathy DeBerry, have developed a corporation that does the same thing, and they are a very solid organization that has a much broader range of products, actually, than what we had,” Carkoski said.

Curtis DeBerry will be general manager of the Texas operation. Carkoski will remain in Pennsylvania and oversee the company as its president. Kathy DeBerry will help to oversee the transitional phase of the merger before her role diminishes, Carkoski said.

Sol Fresh Produce works with a network of about 150 growers of fruits and vegetables in Mexico.

The companies will retain their current roster of employees and, perhaps, add workers, Carkoski said.

The combined operations have 16 full-time workers, he said, adding that the company likely would be hiring additional help.

The new entity will develop its own label over the next year or so. In the meantime, DeBerry said, the Sol Fresh banner will continue.