(June 18) MEMPHIS, Tenn. — “I wish I were in Dixie” is becoming a reality for a prominent foodservice produce wholesaler that’s going south. Pro*Act, Monterrey, Calif., is expanding its Southern distribution base by signing on a prominent Memphis produce wholesaler.

The addition of Charlie Sciara & Son Produce Co. Inc. will allow Pro*Act to better serve foodservice customers in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Kentucky, said Lloyd Ligier, Pro*Act’s vice president of business development. Pro*Act has no member distributors in those states but has served parts of them from distributors in Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana.

“It helps us fill in the gaps of the whole southeast region,” he said. “It’s one of those regions that we wanted to make sure we identified with a qualified company.”

Ligier said Pro*Act is reviewing the entire Midwestern corridor and looking at gaps at places where Pro*Act lacks distributors, such as Indianapolis.

“We want to make sure we cover and fill in the Indianapolis area,” he said.

Pro*Act will likely sign another three to five distributors by the end of this year, Ligier said.

Peter Sciara, Sciara & Son’s president, said joining Pro*Act provides the firm access to regional and national foodservice operators.

“This is a group with resources beyond those that we hold as an independent operator that we could not previously approach,” he said.

According to the U.S. Census Department, the five county Memphis metropolitan area, which includes counties in Arkansas and Mississippi, is the 44th-largest U.S. metropolitan area.

Pro*Act chose Sciara & Son, among other reasons, because of the cleanliness of the 55-year-old firm’s fresh-cut processing facilities, storage, quality laboratory and truck fleet, Ligier said.

“In all aspects, they’re a perfect fit,” he said. “They have an excellent reputation.”

Sciara & Son distributes produce to customers within a 75-mile radius of Memphis.

The Memphis market was added under Pro*Act’s recently introduced distributor program, which has lower purchasing volume requirements to allow the organization to add more middle-sized markets, Ligier said.

“The criteria for purchasing is not what it is for major market,” he said. “They don’t have to have as many packages running through.”

Sciara & Son is Pro*Act’s 55th distributor.

Enrique Produce Inc., Miami, joined Pro*Act in late March.