After years of wrangling and sometimes heated exchanges, produce wholesalers on the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market are closer to finally beginning business in their new facility.

Doug Ohlemeier
Eastern Editor

Completion of the massive project — celebrated during a March 25 ribbon-cutting ceremony — required a decade of cooperation among the market’s leaders, the builder, a slew of attorneys and elected officials.

It’s an impressive building — touted as the world’s largest refrigerator — that sits on more than 50 acres.

To experience its grandeur, one needs to stroll through the cavernous hallways of facilities that are such a contrast to the former rundown and decrepit distribution operations. Those were scheduled to cease operations April 7.

The new market is scheduled to officially begin operations April 10.

“This is the most incredible produce facility I have ever seen,” said Josh Auerbach, salesman for Maurice A. Auerbach Inc., South Hackensack, N.J.

Other retail and foodservice customers, wholesalers and suppliers toured the operations after the ribbon cutting and in the weeks before its opening.

“This is tremendous. It is great for the industry,” said Anthony Barbieri, vice president of business development for the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del.

As director of produce sales for Acme Markets Inc., Malvern, Pa., Barbieri used to walk the aisles of the other facility.

“This will be good for business and the customers,” Barbieri said.

“It will give them the freshest product. It also flows well and will be good for the merchants.”

Amid all the thank-yous came a shout-out to Jimmy Storey, president of the terminal association and president and owner of wholesaler Quaker City Produce Co.

Storey, who was hospitalized in December, was unable to attend the ceremonies to open the operation he worked so hard to bring to about.

Speaker after speaker lauded Storey’s critical role and wished him a speedy recovery.

“God bless Jimmy Storey,” said James McDermott Jr., director of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, who emceed the ribbon-cutting event.

“Without him, we wouldn’t be here today.”

E-mail dohlemeier@thepacker.com

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