(Jan. 17) PHILADELPHIA — For the first time in two decades, Procacci Bros. Sales Corp. finds it must do business without John DiFeliciantonio.

The company also has to find a new president.

DiFeliciantonio, who has spent more than 20 years at the Philadelphia-based vegetable wholesaler/-distributor, resigned as president of the firm early in January, the company said.

"He resigned last week," J.M. Procacci, the company's chief operating officer, said Jan. 13.

He declined to elaborate on the circumstances behind DiFeliciantonio’s departure.

“I wish John the best,” Procacci said. “I know it was a difficult decision for him.”

DiFeliciantonio could not be reached for comment.

Sources who requested anonymity speculated that DiFeliciantonio may have joined J. Ambrogi Food Distribution Inc., Westville, N.J. Telephone calls to Jerry Ambrogi, the company’s chief executive officer, were not returned.

Procacci, meanwhile, has launched a search for a successor to DiFeliciantonio.

“We’re not certain how we’re going to structure it (the search),” said Procacci, who in the interim is sharing DiFeliciantonio’s former duties with Mike Maxwell, the firm’s executive vice president. “We have a policy of trying to promote from within. … (But) we’re considering all candidates, even from the outside.”

Procacci said he and his father, Joe, the company’s chief executive officer, would make the final decision on a permanent successor. There is no timetable, J.M. Procacci added.

“We’re constantly interviewing people anyhow, but this is something new for me, (seeking) experienced executives in the produce field, since we usually promote from within,” he said.

Procacci Bros. Sales Corp., founded by Joe and Michael Procacci in 1948, handles nearly 300,000 tons of produce a year. The company began as a tomato specialist, but in 1968 formed Garden State Farms to expand. Now it imports fruit from Argentina, Guatemala and Mexico. It brings strawberries from New Zealand and chestnuts from Italy.

Procacci also owns Naples, Fla.-based Gargiulo Inc., a grower-shipper with operations in Florida, California, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

In addition to Gargiulo, Procacci owns Plant City, Fla.-based Ag-Mart Produce Inc., the marketer of santa variety grape tomatoes. The firm also has a 40% stake in Palmetto, Fla.-based Harllee Packing Inc.