(Dec. 18) A leading supplier of fresh fruits and vegetables to chain restaurants has purchased a distributor specializing in independent restaurants, creating what company officials say is the largest foodservice produce distributor in the mid-Atlantic.

On Dec. 13, Coastal Sunbelt Co. Inc., Savage, Md., announced it had purchased Jessup, Md.-based L&M Produce Inc. Coastal’s chief executive officer, John Corso, said the move combines the mid-Atlantic’s No. 2 and No. 3 foodservice produce distributors, making Coastal the new No. 1.

Corso declined to say which company was No. 1 in the market before the sale.

The merged company will supply restaurants from as far north as Northern New Jersey and as far south as Virginia Beach, Va., Corso said. Coastal and L&M complement each other not only on the type of restaurants served, but also on geographical coverage, he noted.

L&M’s two founders will assume senior management positions at Coastal, Corso said. On Dec. 17, Herb Lichtenstein will become vice president of wholesale and James McWhorter will become vice president of sales.