On or Off the Market
Whether they’re at the Center or not, most local produce companies agree there are numerous advantages to being in Houston. Location is frequently trumpeted as one of the biggest perks. Steve Bramel, president of Bramel Trucking, has been part of the Houston Produce Center since its opening in 1954 and touts the convenience of being near the Rio Grande Valley and its border crossings, as well as easier access to customers in the Midwest and the East Coast. He also believes the Port of Houston has an important role to play in the not-too-distant future. “The Port is getting ready to grow,” he notes, “I think we’ll see container ships with produce coming in.”
Jimmy Ramos, manager of Ramos Produce, Inc., says the area’s geographic location is a huge plus. “Texas is so big that I can ship to Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, pretty much anywhere, and in Houston, we’re in the middle,” he says. “We’re also only a five-hour drive to The Valley, so it’s easy for us to get product overnight.”
Houston Produce Center
Opened in 1954 as a distribution hub with easy access to rail and highways.
Address & Phone:
3144 Produce Row
Houston, TX 77023
For Integrity Distribution Services, LLC’s Rudy Armendariz, the upside of doing business in the Bayou City is its sheer size. While much of the country suffered during the recent recession, Houston weathered it well and has bounced back even better. “Things have slowed down a bit with the oil slump, but we’re still a food town and we like to eat out,” says Armendariz, whose focus is on citrus, melons, and potatoes. “With all the people coming here, the volume keeps growing.”
Bramel, too, commented on the oil bust and the proliferation of workers looking for jobs. “Quite a few people who drove in the oilfield are now coming back and looking for trucking jobs,” he observes. The upside of the drop in oil prices, of course, has been the simultaneous drop in fuel prices. “Lower fuel prices have been very good for us,” he shares. “Drivers have finally been able to catch their breath a little.”
The Effects of Weather
With every advantage comes a challenge, and the produce industry in greater Houston has faced its share on the path to success. Among the biggest is weather, which always plays a critical role in quality and availability whether in Texas, California, Arizona, or Mexico. A stark reminder of Mother Nature’s power came in April and May when much of Texas was blanketed with torrential rain, causing flooding. Houston and South-eastern Texas were particularly hard hit.