NEW YORK — Top Katz Brokers LLC has opened a Nogales, Ariz., office and is expanding to California and Canada deals.

The company, based in an office on the Hunts Point Terminal Market, also plans to improve its Web site.

In November, the Bronx-based brokerage firm that sells for growers opened a Nogales office called Top Katz West.

Top Katz extends its reach across the continent

Doug Ohlemeier

Paul Manfre, a buyer for Top Katz Brokers LLC, Bronx. Top Katz has expanded operations.

The Nogales office, which is working out of a Malena Produce Inc. warehouse, has personnel that buy and sell, consolidate loads and “bird dog” for product quality, said buyer Paul Manfre.

Top Katz, which sells for growers in Florida and Mexico packing under Top Katz’s Bloom Fresh label, this year plans to expand to selling for Californian and Canadian growers, Manfre said.

Though Top Katz has marketed under the label since 2007, Manfre said the company is trying to return to the “olden days,” when labels really represented premium packs and when a product was good from top to bottom.

“That’s why we undertook this label,” he said. “We wanted something different and something we have control over and are exclusive with.”

Label use

Top Katz applies the label to products such as eggplant, squash, colored peppers and herbs. The company plans to apply it to other lines when it adds more Canadian and Mexican shippers, Manfre said.

Top Katz sells a full line of produce mostly to East Coast and Canadian customers and sells watermelon to Midwestern clients.

Manfre said the company is trying to provide more service to its customers and allow them to view the product before it arrives on their docks.

Using technology, the company has been sending photos of the produce it sells to customers via e-mail to show what is available that day from Nogales or other places, Manfre said.

The company’s next step in utilizing technology will be to place those photos on its Web site.

Interactive Web site

Manfre said he wants to make Top Katz’s Web site, at, more interactive so customers can zoom-in and see more of a box of peppers. Manfre said Top Katz plans to make the changes to its site this year.

If a distributor sells green squash, some customers may like a squash that’s a little darker, heavier or thinner, Manfre said.

In the past, the product would be loaded and the customer would have to settle for what arrived and some wouldn’t receive the type of product they prefer.

Additionally, Manfre for the past decade has been writing a weekly produce-related newsletter he calls the Alpha and Omega report.

Manfre remains optimistic during challenging economic times for fresh produce. He said the business is out there for those that work for it.

No excuses

“I’m not an excuse type of person,” he said. “The buck stops with me. We went into the year (2009) with the attitude that people will make excuses. To tell you the truth, there is business out there, but if you wait for it to come to you, it won’t come. You have to go out and be aggressive, and you have to take it.”

In July, Top Katz, which was started by S. Katzman Produce Inc. and Top Banana LLC, will mark its 12th year in business.

Top Katz represents shippers that sell a full line of produce from the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Coming from a colorful produce past, Manfre entered the produce industry by selling fruit from pushcarts on the streets of Manhattan. He also has worked as a salesman for S. Katzman and has put deals together for shippers in the Southern Hemisphere.