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Philly Rising

Catching up with the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market’s movers and shakers
Philly Market

“Every terminal market on the East Coast that I know of is open to the public,” remarked Tom Curtis of Tom Curtis Produce Company, Inc.

And although the Philly market is a shining example of what a terminal market can be, Curtis does cite one drawback to the flow of nonindustry buyers frequenting its hallways. “I think we’ve lost some of the walk-in trade and some of the mom-and-pop stores we used to have at the old market because of location. However, it’s so much easier here to load than in the old market. Further, people used to find it challenging to locate adequate dock space in the old market.  Here, those problems don’t exist.”

“We have a variety of people coming in here,” commented Ron Milavsky, vice president at B.R.S. Produce Company. “There are brokers buying for larger wholesalers, people who buy for the diners, store and restaurant owners come in… It’s hard to gauge, but I think more people from the public are coming into the market now that we’re operating in the new facility.”


Vena, of John Vena, Inc., said, “We’ve always had a small percentage of the general public as customers.  Before my time, people often visited the market to buy large quantities of local, seasonal items for home canning.  When I was starting out in the 1970s,” he continued, “we had quite a few community buying groups and co-ops as customers. 

These were kind of a precursor to the CSAs (community supported agriculture groups) of today. 

“Ten or fifteen families would pool some money weekly or bimonthly and take turns coming to the market to buy produce.  We would help them load it into a station wagon or two and they took it home and divided it into shares,” Vena notes. 

“Nowadays, we see many families or individuals coming in to buy a few cartons of favorite fruits or vegetables around the holidays or for family or neighborhood events.  Our new facility is really easy for customers of any size to take advantage of, so I think it is a positive thing.”

Mark Levin, chief executive of M. Levin & Company, Inc., reiterated that though the terminal market has always been open the public, “many people are not aware of this. Individuals may have found it hard in the past to shop at the market for many reasons,” he says, “but with our new, beautiful, bright, and clean facility, we have seen more and more members of the public shopping at the market.”