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Heritage: New York Apple Sales pushing forward with a strong team and partnerships

Numerous idioms attest to the popularity of the apple throughout history. And although the apple market has faced challenges in the past century, its longevity makes it truly the apple of the American consumer’s eye.

In New York state, New York Apple Sales is an integral part of the history of apple production. The Glenmont, NY-based company has taken some twists and turns in ownership and corporate structure since its start in 1919, but apples have always been at its core. NYAS-Historic-Photos-etc.-1H. Michaelson signing the merger with Storm King Fruit Growers to form United Apple Sales in September 1970. Pictured are Martin Michaelson, vice president, Herman Michaelson, president, Albert Harrington, vice president, and John Mandy, secretary-treasurer.

Kaari Stannard, owner and president, has led the company to new heights. It now handles one-third of the state’s entire apple crop and it has ventured into import apple programs from Nova Scotia and New Zealand.

NYAS was founded by Max Michaelson in 1919 in Menands, NY, under the name of Max Michaelson Produce.

“The company purchased fruit from local orchards and sold it in markets around Albany for several decades,” explained Stannard. “In 1960, Max’s son, Herman Michaelson, who had 25 years of experience in the apple business, purchased Hudson Storage & Ice Corp., dissolved the name Max Michaelson and renamed the company Herman Michaelson Inc., also known as H. Michaelson. He retained Hudson Cold Storage.”

IMG 8978The Hudson Cold Storage facility, circa 1960. A decade later, H. Michaelson merged with Storm King Fruit Growers Sales Corp. and became United Apple Sales. Herman Michaelson passed away at age 66, and his son, Martin (Marty) Michaelson, took over the business.

“In 1992, Marty made the decision to separate from his partner, Charles Andola, in United Apple Sales, and he began New York Apple Sales,” said Stannard. “Charles Andola retained United Apple Sales.”

Marty Michaelson served as president of New York Apple Sales, and Mike Faddis was vice president.

“New York Apple Sales handled marketing for Hudson Cold Storage, which was owned by Michaelson, Lake Ontario Fruit, Empire Fruit Packers, Crist Orchards, Fix Brothers and Allen Saupagh, among other apple growers,” noted Stannard. “The company was a marketer to retails, wholesalers and chain stores located mostly east of the Mississippi.”

NYAS-Historic-Photos-etc.-2New partners of United Apple Sales tour an apple orchard following signing documents to form United Apple Sales in September 1970. Pictured are John Mandy, secretary-treasurer, Herman Michaelson, president, Albert Harrington, vice president, and Marty Michaelson, Herman’s son, and who would later become owner of New York Apple Sales.Stannard joined the company in 1997 as a sales team member. In 1999, under the guidance and help of Marty Michaelson, who was her stepfather, she purchased New York Apple Sales. Michaelson died the following year, and Stannard became owner and president.

“Marty was a wonderful mentor, as was Mike Faddis, who retired from the company in 2004,” she said.

In 2001, Michaelson’s estate sold Hudson Cold Storage to Yonder Fruit Farms, which now grows apples, pears, peaches, apricots and plums, with an emphasis on apples and pears. Today the company has over 600 acres in the Hudson Valley and packs up to 3,000 bushels of apples daily.

In April 2001, John Cushing joined the NYAS staff. Previously, he was a buyer for Hannaford Supermarkets and then worked in sales for Sunny Valley International-Jersey Fruit Cooperative. He now serves as vice president of sales for NYAS, where he is also a minority owner.

NYAS-Historic-Photos-etc.-3Workers on the dock at Herman Michaelson Produce dock in Menands, NY, location.NYAS continued to operate from its offices in Hudson Cold Storage, but in 2004 the firm moved to independent offices in Castleton, NY.

“We simply outgrew the space,” explained Stannard. “We were hiring and increasing sales to the point that we needed a larger location.”

The company was also expanding and growing during this first decade of the new millennium. In 2008, NYAS and its partners bought equity ownership in Lake Ontario Fruit, a high-tech packaging and shipping facility in Albion, NY.

“Everything in life comes full circle,” said Stannard. “I was new to the industry and focusing on my strengths on marketing for New York Apple Sales. Lake Ontario Fruit had a lot of older growers, and so my partners, Rod Farrow, Jason Woodworth and Jose Iniguez, and I bought into it.”

NYAS-Historic-Photos-etc.-4Marty Michaelson at his desk at Hudson Cold Storage & Ice Co. in Hudson, NY, in the early 1990s.Stannard wasn’t sitting still in her earlier years with the company. In 2010, NYAS invested in, and became a partner with, Rod Farrow in Fish Creek Orchards in Orleans County, NY.

That year Stannard personally became a partner in Pomona Packing, a high-tech packing and shipping facility in Wolcott, NY.

In February 2012, Stannard, with her partners, began to develop Fish Creek Farms Apple Orchards.

“I wanted to get into growing apples, and Fish Creek opened presented the opportunity,” she said.

The company moved again in May 2014, this time to Glenmont. It also did a rebranding, updated its software and enhanced its IT.

The year 2014 was a landmark year for NYAS in other ways. It marked the first year that the company imported Honeycrisp and KORU apples from New Zealand to supplement its domestically grown fruit. And it was its first season as exclusive marketing agent in the United States for Scotian Gold in Nova Scotia.

stanaard-familyJeff and Kaari Stannard, flanked by daughters Marleigh and Makayla.“In 2016, my partners and I formed Fruit Forward, which is an intellectual property company seeking and testing new apple and pear varieties,” said Stannard. “And this year, to complement the Honeycrisp apple program, we formed Coast to Coast Cooperative with Borton Fruit and Oneonta Star Ranch Growers, both of Washington state, to import New Zealand KORU apples.”

Over the past decade, Stannard has focused on building the NYAS brand through quality investments in orchards, packing facilities and its marketing initiatives. She said that life has indeed come full circle.

“In the early years in the business, I lacked the knowledge to appropriately manage the company from field to sales,” she acknowledged. “But today I have my own orchards, partner-growers, packing facilities and a marketing arm that, combined, oversees all aspects, from field to sales.”

koru2A KORU apple orchard owned by New York Apple Sales.Stannard sits on the U.S. Apple Export Council, the New York Apple Association and she is currently secretary of the U.S. Apple Association. She also participated in the United Fresh leadership program, Class 12, in 2006, which she said helped her to gain the skills and industry relationships necessary to succeed.

“My association involvements help me to further broaden and strengthen my knowledge and relationship within the industry,” she said.

Stannard’s personal life has also blossomed. Her husband, Jeff, is a stay-at-home dad who does consulting on the side. They have two daughters, Makayla, 15, and Marleigh, 12.

The NYAS staff has also evolved. Earlier this year, Jim Allen, former president and chief executive officer of the New York Apple Association, and Matt Wells, former procurement director of Dr. Pepper/Snapple and a former western New York Cornell Cooperative Fruit Specialist, joined the staff.

“I am very proud of the team that has been assembled at NYAS,” stressed Stannard. “The majority of our staff members are longstanding. All are passionate and dedicated, and without them I would not have been able to grow the business to what it is today.”