KENNETT SQUARE, PA — The relationship between the ports of the Delaware River and the rolling hills of small-town Pennsylvania a half-hour away may not be readily apparent until one spots the 7-million-cubic-foot complex that houses the Manfredi companies, here.
Despite being headquartered in a town of 6,000, Manfredi has regularly expanded its cold-storage facilities, doubled its repacking capacity in the past year, operates inbound and outbound trucking fleets and continually tinkers with its world-class logistics network, including development of its own proprietary warehouse management system, which will roll out this fall.
Owner Frank Manfredi said the reason for the success of his companies comes down to two factors: service and logistics.
“What makes this work is we’re a full-service facility,” Mr. Manfredi said. “We operate seven days a week. Customers look at the services you provide versus your competition. If you factor in everything and add it all up, the cost of doing business here is the same or a little less than doing business at the waterfront. But the other thing customers tend to take advantage of is we’re in Kennett Square, the mushroom capital of the world.”
Mr. Manfredi — part of the third-generation of a mushroom-growing family — said, “I wasn’t a very good mushroom grower. My brother and myself fired me. My job went from growing mushroom to loading trucks on the dock. That kind of worked out.”
So much so that Mr. Manfredi found himself drawn into the logistics game and all it entails in the mushroom capital of the world.
“Well we don’t eat them all,” Mr. Manfredi joked about the area’s most famous product. “But within about five miles of [Kennett Square], 100-110 trucks a day are leaving for Maine, Florida, Texas, this side of Colorado, up to Wisconsin. They’re going to all the same places the fruit from the ports is going, all the same DCs, all the same chains, all the same foodservice people, and their season is 12 months a year. There’s always room on a mushroom truck out of this area. For the importers, transportation is key to getting their product delivered where they want it. This is probably the largest year-round chilled distribution area in the country. Mushrooms are picked every day, 365 days a year, so we ship every day. It’s become a natural chilled distribution hub and we take full advantage of that.
“What’s happened over the last four years — basically what we call reverse logistics has taken place,” he said. “We have customers here who store products they use the mushroom trucks to backhaul in from the Midwest — they pick up time and money in their own truck. I’ve got a customer here that return-loads 25-30 mushroom trucks a week; those trucks could not be more efficient. They’re leaving here full and coming back here full, so it’s working out very, very well.
“You have to be a full-service facility,” he said. “We’ve grown in refrigerated space over the last two years by 30-35 percent, from just under 15,000 pallet spots to just under 21,000. We’ve grown our reconditioning and repacking facility, we’ve doubled the square footage of that over the last eight or nine months and are doing more specialty packing, more bagging and boxing, and more sorting and grading services as well.”
The Manfredi system is so complete, it even has its own emergency power source capable of generating enough energy to run 500 houses for a week.
Up next is the addition of a truck scale to save customers time and money. This fall, a proprietary warehouse management system will go into operation.
That system — including 80 remote controlled cameras that cover every square inch of the perimeter — lets “customers feel like we’re in their backyard, like they can look out their back window and feel like we’re there,” Mr. Manfredi said.
“We take the customers’ product very seriously,” Mr. Manfredi said, “and their needs are ever-changing. We listen to their feedback. If this pack style’s not working, another one will. If this price point on a weight isn’t working, something else will. Our job is just to make those things happen as seamlessly as possible, and that’s what we try to do. Nothing’s more important than your label — your brand — and we try to handle it just like you would run your business. We have a lot of good, long-term relationships we’ve built over the years, and our partners trust us to do a good job.”