PHILADELPHIA — Although none of them were around during the heyday of the older Philadelphia Regional Produce Market, the next generation of produce workers has begun to make its mark on Philadelphia’s produce scene.
Many companies have new generations working in sales, marketing, produce selection and loading and warehouse positions at the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market.
“This is the next generation,” said Karen Waleski, a saleswoman with of John Waleski Produce Co. Inc. and daughter of owner John Waleski.
“I think the times are changing. It was different when my dad started.”
John Waleski said distributors have to adapt to the newer and younger clientele.
“You got to stay young,” he said. “You have to keep bringing in new people. With newer customers, younger people deal better with them.”
Waleski said he enjoys training the new generation of workers and that the process of handing over responsibilities to the young occurs in every organization, even in his hunting club.
“Unless you get new people in, you will disappear,” Waleski said.
The fourth-generation family operated M. Levin & Co. has long had family members working in its ranks. Cousins David Levin, Michael Levin and Joel Segel remain in management, but their offspring, such as Margie Fischman, tropical sales, Tracie Levin, general manager, and Brenda Segel, inventory control, represent the bananas and tropicals jobber’s future owners.
The area’s produce business has seemed like it was always a family business no matter who the competitors were, said Mark Levin, co-owner.
Levin said he’s asked his daughter and her cousins if they want to be an employee or an employer. They could take a regular job, or they could become a real part of the company and learn and help the business grow.
“Knock on wood, each one in their own area has taken the bull by the horns and wants to become part of the business,” Levin said.
“They don’t want to be just an employee. That’s a tribute to our fathers, the way they taught us. None of us were ever coddled. That’s the way we learned and is the way we are imparting our work ethic to our children.”
At Nardella Inc., Richard Nardella, chief executive and financial officer, has two grandsons, Frank McDonald and Mike McDonald, working in the operation.
“I am looking at a career here,” Frank McDonald said. “I love the business. I can definitely see a future here.”
Mike McDonald has visited the market since he was 2 years old.
“My dad used to work here,” he said. “I remember coming here all the time. It was fun coming back all grown up. It’s a lot of hard work and manual labor, but people down here are nice people. It’s fun to be around here.”
“This is much better than a desk job,” Frank McDonald said.
Chip Wiechec, president of Hunter Bros. Inc., said his son likes to visit the market but has his sights set on military intelligence and wants to enter the Naval Academy.
Other newer-generation workers on the market include Todd Penza, salesman with Pinto Bros. Inc., Pete Storey, salesman with Quaker City Produce Co., and Daniel Vena, salesman with John Vena Inc.