“Locally grown produce has always been the backbone of our business,” said TJ Rahll, the third-generation family member to operate Edward G. Rahll & Sons Inc., located at the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market in Jessup, MD.
“My grandfather, our company namesake, founded this business based on local produce, and despite our growth and expansion of sourcing from so many other areas throughout our history, we’re still proud to say that we work with between 50-60 local farmers each year for all of our seasonal supplies,” he added.
This year, Rahll noted, has been strange in that adverse weather shortened the already relatively short season somewhat. Despite that, the company will always strive to be one of the biggest suppliers of local produce in its distribution range.
The company was founded by Edward G. Rahll, the company’s namesake, who started by selling out of back of his truck. He moved onto the Pulaski Highway produce market in the 1950s, and then on to the Jessup market when it opened in the mid-1970s. His son, T.J.’s father, Tom Rahll, was at the helm until a few years ago when he semi-retired. Tom Rahll passed away in February of 2012.
Today, Edward G. Rahll occupies 11 units in building A at the MWPM.
Watermelons, corn and cantaloupe are the three top items for the company. They are followed by tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers and other field crops.
It handles a full line of fresh produce, including a wide variety of herbs, ethnic, specialty and exotic items. It still maintains its traditional line of commodity produce, such as tomatoes, potatoes and onions, which it has handled for decades. Citrus from Florida and California, melons and stone fruits are also important items in the company’s line of fresh produce. From late fall to early spring, Edward G. Rahll sources from other growing regions in the country and from offshore.
Rahll said the company is continually working on its food-safety initiatives.
“We take food safety as a personal commitment,” he said. “We have a solid vision of what we want our facility to look like.”
MWPM opened in 1975, so it’s nearing 30 years old. But tenants like Edward G. Rahll say the location is so good that to build a modern market elsewhere would be foolish.
“We are always in discussions with MWPM regarding future updates to the current facility that would increase our efficiencies in a sufficient way without having the burden of the great expense that it would cost us to rebuild,” said Rahll. “We believe that an updated facility is an attainable goal.
“Upgrades at the market are constant, and in ways that help to improve and insure food safety,” he continued. “Things like upgrading our pest control management, renovating our canopy, electrical updates, advanced security systems and new roofing are all things that we’ve recently done or are in the process of doing.”
The Asian and Hispanic populations in the mid-Atlantic continue to grow and expand. Rahll said commodities are strongly influenced by these groups. He noted that MWPM is also seeing more ethnic tenants taking space on the market. Rahll said all of the many ethnic cultures now populating the region are relevant and important.
“Restaurants and stores continue to cater to this population,” he said. “And we are always expanding our line to provide them with the products they want. Many ethnic grocery stores, particularly those with a strong Asian culture, are opening in the area today. At certain times of the year we’ll bring items like boniato and malanga in from other growing regions. We also partner with others in the market to help fill our demand. And, local growers are now producing more of these ethnic items.”
“It has been a good year for us,” said Rahll. “We spent a lot of time in the past year working on upgrades to our own facility and our warehouse for food-safety purposes and to help increase our efficiencies. We put a lot of resources back into our business. We don’t measure success only by the amount of business we’re doing, but also on how we can improve our operation in order to better service our customers”
He also said that the company is currently working on some exciting new projects that will be its focus as it finishes up its current food-safety initiatives. “We’ll get the word out about them as soon as we reach that point,” said Rahll.