(Sept. 25) PHILADELPHIA — As it approaches its 90th birthday, John Vena Inc. is increasing its offerings by bringing a partner specialties seller into its operations and is expanding its produce market presence.

The company is merging with JV Specialties LLC — which Vena Inc. president John Vena Jr. co-founded in 2005 and was operating in a Vena warehouse a block south of the Philadelphia Regional Produce Market — to market off of Vena Inc.’s reputation, Vena said.

JV Specialties, which was named after JV Specialties co-founder John Hickey and Vena, represented specialties growers to buyers throughout the East Coast and the Midwest, while Vena Inc. sells specialty produce to customers from upstate New York into the Carolinas.

“This will be a positive effect for all of us,” Vena said. “John’s strength in procurement and customer relations will give us a wider reach as far as sourcing product goes, which will give us more product expertise and more horsepower regarding customer service.”

Vena and Hickey looked for a way to better use Hickey’s time, and to keep him in buying and selling instead of administrative responsibilities. Vena said the merger would likely increase Vena Inc.’s specialty produce volume by 25%.

Though the two companies overlap in some product offerings, Hickey focuses on baby vegetables, French beans, asparagus and snap peas while Vena Inc. carries 300-500 specialty items including baby vegetables, tropicals, greenhouse vegetables and specialty tomatoes.

Vena Inc. has also expanded its terminal market spaces from three to four by taking over the lease of an adjacent unit formerly run by Phillies Tomato & Produce Corp., which ceased operations last fall, Vena said.

Vena Inc. took possession of the stall before Labor Day and in late September was remodeling the area and preparing to integrate its office space, Vena said.

Distributors and governmental officials on Sept. 4 attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Philadelphia produce market, and Vena said he expects construction to start soon.

“The important thing is that all the funding is in place, which is what needed to get done,” he said. “Everyone has signed off on the project and the money is where it’s supposed to be. The wheels on these kinds of things turn slow, but they’re turning.”

Vena said the company hasn’t made any plans to celebrate its 90th birthday. He said his plate has been full with the merger and aiding in negotiations with the proposed new market. Vena said he wants to integrate the JV Specialties staff into Vena Inc.’s operation and then plan for a celebration later this year or early next year.

Philly’s John Vena to merge with JV Specialties
John Hickey (left), co-founder of Philadelphia-based JV Specialties LLC, stands with Daniel Vena, a salesman with John Vena Inc. John Vena Inc. is merging partner JV Specialties into its operation. The merger is expected to increase Vena’s specialty produce sales by 25%.