Crews & Garcia renovates coolers

Crews & Garcia Inc., a Tampa, Fla.-based distributor, is finishing remodeling its coolers.

In late 2013, the company completed upgrading two coolers and plans to finish two smaller ones by spring, said Louis Garcia Jr., president.

The larger coolers each hold four truckloads of produce while the smaller ones can handle two loads total, he said.

“We are trying to be in line with all the food safety requirements,” Garcia said. “It makes for a lot nicer atmosphere to bring product in a new and modern cooler.”

Because the refrigeration systems are better insulated, the new coolers operate more efficiently, he said.

The Garden wins defense contract

The Garden Wholesale Produce Inc., in Jacksonville, Fla., was awarded the Department of Defense’s contract for supplying produce to military and school lunch programs.

Matt Wasson, vice president, owner and operator, said the distributor won the contract during the summer.

The contract allows The Garden to service north Florida schools as well as the region’s military bases, which include Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville.

“This award obviously validates our ability to service these institutions,” Wasson said. “You never know how you stack up to other vendors across the nation when you’re stuck here in your own world.”

While distributing to military installations in the past brought big business, cutbacks in defense spending and increasing interest in providing healthy fresh produce dining options to school cafeterias has helped increase business in school foodservice, Wasson said.

Harvill’s planning farmers market

Harvill’s Produce Co., in Orlando, Fla., is building a farmers market adjacent to the 9-acre, 87,000-square-foot facility it relocated to in 2013.

Though consumer sales would represent a tiny part of Harvill’s business, the operation could tap into growing consumer demand, said Ernie Harvill, president.

“It represents another form of expansion for us and we have the location and it’s close to what we’re doing,” he said. “It goes with our business and is a create-your-own-customer type of thing.”

In the greater Orlando area, upwards of 100 small growers markets sell produce with only a handful standing out as the better ones, Harvill said. He said farm stand sales are tough as the markets battle the larger retail chain stores.

Harvill said he expects to open the market in the early spring.

Produce Connection adds personnel

The Produce Connection Inc. has added personnel to fills sales, procuring and exporting demand.

Graham Taylor has joined the Miami-based wholesaler as sales manager, Vince McIntire as West Coast produce buyer and James Massari as exports director.

In sales for 15 years, Taylor is a culinary educator, a certified executive chef, and a three-time Caribbean master chef winner, Taylor said.

He was team coordinator for the Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets Inc., in Pompano Beach, Fla., and also worked for a Pompano Beach chocolate company.

McIntire was a Florida produce coordinator and worked as a merchandiser and in procurement for Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market Inc. from the chain’s Fort Lauderdale, Fla., regional corporate office. Additionally, he worked as a produce manager in Whole Foods’ stores in the Washington, D.C., district of Georgetown and in Vienna, Va.

Massari worked in procurement and was a general manager with the San Antonio-based H.E. Butt Grocery Co., and during the 1990s, owned Key Biscayne Gourmet Farmers Market in Key Biscayne, Fla.

Taylor and MctIntire joined The Produce Connection last winter while Massari started in September.