hunts point, bronx, NY — Baldor Specialty Foods New York, located at Hunts Point in the Bronx, NY, is always growing, evolving, multiplying, experimenting and planning for the future.
Today, the company is well into the construction of its new facility addition which will add 100,000 square feet, for a total of 270,000 square feet of refrigerated space. Phase 1 will be completed in the near future.
“We will then move the existing warehouse to the completed section as phase 2 gets underway,” Michael Muzyk, company president, told The Produce News on March 23.
“We did a tremendous amount of work on the existing building when we moved into it in 2006, but it now needs some upgrading. Moving into the newly completed section will enable us to start that process as well.”
But major construction isn’t slowing the evolvement momentum at Baldor New York. As usual, the company is spreading its proverbial wings in many directions.
Originally founded as primarily a foodservice distributor, Baldor now has a notable presence at the retail level from Maine to Virginia. It launched its Urban Roots branded line a few years ago, and it has enjoyed impressive growth since. But it’s about to take a giant leap forward.
“We have developed a fresh-cut shelf of Urban Roots Grab & Go products, and we have a major retailer who wants to roll it out along the East Coast,” explained Muzyk. “Time and experience have proven that doing fresh cuts in-house is simply not financially beneficial any longer. Urban Roots’ Grab & Go items save retailers money and the line responds perfectly to today’s consumer lifestyles.”
A New York University nutritionist recently invited Muzyk to speak at an event at the school. He realized that despite the extremely high tuitions today, many students aren’t sure what they want to do after they graduate. He decided to talk about the success story he’s most familiar with and which he is greatly responsible for — Baldor, and what it does.
“The students asked about food trends, and I explained about how they change over time,” he said. “When baby vegetables were first introduced you couldn’t get enough of them. Then they slowed and peaked again. Kale is another good example. Its origins are in the Deep South, along with things like collard greens, but it caught on with such a bang that growers couldn’t keep up with demand. Today there are so many different types of kale on the market, and in every imaginable package that you can’t keep up.
“But then I told them the real reason behind success in any industry; keeping a personal connection with your suppliers, customers, colleagues and your team,” he continued. “That personal touch is what makes a company successful, and if I drove that message home to those students, I did the right thing.”
Another key to Baldor’s success, is its New York test kitchen — a large amphitheater complete with a full kitchen, audio and visual wireless technology, microphones for presentations and a specialty foods’ team member who presents a weekly spread of new and exciting products.
“The test kitchen serves three purposes,” said Muzyk. “It’s a meeting and educational room for our staff; a place to host clients; and a space that enables us to give back to the community.”
It recently hosted students from a Bronx charter school and invited Chef Michael White to prepare a meal for them. He made a pasta dish that was very well received.
“It was really surprising to see these kids, who for the most part are from poor neighborhoods, become so engaged in the presentation ask incredibly sophisticated questions,” Muzyk noted. “It sounded like they all had tiger moms at home pushing them to excel in every way.”
Every student was sent home with a box containing every ingredient needed to duplicate the recipe at home.
Every Thursday morning, Baldor’s sales staff meets in the test kitchen to sample new items to the company. One week might include Martin’s Farm Fava Leaves, Chive Buds, Wild Stinging Nettles, Miner’s Lettuce, Green Almonds, Harry’s Berries Organic Strawberries, Washington Extra Fancy Sterino Rhubarb, Red Wood Clover, Sweet Sapphire Grapes, Seedless Pink Muscat Grape or any other combination. Staff sample the products, and get an education of where they’re from and how they are eaten or incorporated into food preparation.
“There’s a lot going on, but there’s much more,” Muzyk pointed out. “We also keep our antenna tuned into the local movement and sustainability. We have added Peak Season Picks, an e-publication to inform customers of what’s available. And we continue to publish Fresh Update and News from the Farm, which are updated weekly.”