“We have been down here a long time,” said Mike Smith, president of Sigma Sales Inc. in Nogales, AZ. “At Sigma, we have been here for 20 years,” and many members of the Sigma team have been involved in the Nogales produce deal much longer than that.
“I came down here in 1976,” Mr. Smith said. Sean Barton, vice president of sales and procurement, “was born and raised here, and his family has been involved with the deal forever.” Steve Schmidtz, also vice president of sales and procurement, as well as Larry Redmond and Lou Morello, who are on sales, have also “been here a long time doing this,” he said.
Then, three or four years ago, the company expanded into California, setting up divisions in Santa Maria for a squash deal during the summer months and in Los Angeles to better service customers in proximity to that market.
In Nogales, “we are a full service house,” both shipper and broker, Mr. Smith said. “We do anything our customers need us to do, and we work real, real hard at giving them a level of service down here that is second to none.”
While Sigma handles all of the produce commodities that come through Nogales, in its shipping deals the company specializes in Honeydew melons, watermelons, grapes, soft squash and hard squash, he said.
“We’ve got a honeydew deal we are working right now” with one of the company’s grape growers, he said. In its spring grape program, Sigma is “partnered with [Bakersfield, CA-based] P&L down here and have been doing grapes forever, so we have a sizeable grape deal that comes through our place.”
With regard to the upcoming West Mexico vegetables season, “we are excited about the deal,” Mr. Smith said. “Nogales is obviously a challenging deal in a lot of ways, but there are always opportunities” both “for the people who are working here” and for the customers.
“With our range of products, the deal has to be “worked very, very hard,” he said. “It takes a lot of work and a lot of energy to do it correctly, but we have been doing this a long time, so we are always anxious to get into it and create opportunities for our customers” as well as to “support the people that are down here — the growers and everybody else that are putting a huge investment into getting [the products] up here.”
The company’s focus, he said, is on “the people we deal with here and on our customers on the other end. We want to make Nogales as good an experience for everybody on both ends of the deal” as possible. “That is what we work to do, and I think we have been fairly successful in that over the years.”
The expansion into California is “fairly new” for the company, and it has worked well, Mr. Smith said. “It has allowed us to do a lot of things in servicing our customers that we haven’t been able to do in the past,” or to do them “a lot better than we have done in the past. We have made an investment out there, and I think it is really paying off for everybody concerned.”