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Golden anniversary for Pexco Produce

It was 50 years ago when Pexco Produce Sales began in the produce business, and though it’s not looking to make a big deal of the anniversary, it is touting the achievement to its customers minimally on its price lists and invoices.

Pexco Produce Sales is a grower, shipper and consolidator of domestic and international produce, working out of the Edward L. Myrick State Farmers Market in Pompano Beach, FL.

DSC04903Carol Iwaniszyn, J.T. Guida, Mike Yates, Lily Chacon, Mike Stanley and Debbie Gagne of Pexco Produce Sales.“The secret to our 50 years is definitely customer service,” said J.T. Guida, chief operating officer of the company. “Everyone has the same stuff to sell, but we feel like we do a better job at the ground level of customer service. We’ve had a consolidation process for 50 years that a lot of people in our industry are emulating.”

A lot of that has to do with the service of the company’s trucking, logistics, quality control and loading capabilities out of one distribution center in Plant City, FL.

The company sells a wide selection of Southern vegetables, including green beans, squash, eggplant, okra and cucumbers. It also offers a value-added program with bagged cucumbers, squash and corn.

“We spent over $100,000 setting up a new corn line that cellophanes the corn in packs of four and six, and that’s distributed under private label to some of the large discount lot stores,” Guida said. “We are venturing into a new product, which is bagged yellow squash and bagged zucchini. It’s under the Pexco label.”

Guida revealed business has gotten off to a slow start in 2019 due to challenges created by weather.

“Plus, there’s not as much product being grown in the southern part of the United Stated during the winter months,” he said. “A lot of the marketing by the chain stores has put product in different areas at different times that were not expected. For example, they’ve gone to a lot more bag product, which has slowed down the business quite a bit.”

At 72, Guida noted he’s starting to move some of the responsibilities at the company to other employees. Michael Yates is now overall director of the company, Bill Nagle heads up food safety, Mike Stanley is general manager of Southern distribution, and sales are being handled by Michael Peace. Guida is concentrating on promotion and more quality-control type work.

Pompano has long been the central hub of the produce industry in Florida, though the development of the industry has made the city more of a distribution network for produce.

“We started there 46 years ago. It’s evolved throughout the years. At first, it looked like it might not hang in there, but then the refrigeration was introduced to the market in 1984 and that helped keep a lot of the growers intact,” Guida said. “There are still growers who use the market for consolidation and a few companies who take advantage of that.”

Pexco has its eye on a lot of different things happening in the industry right now, and Guida believes things are trending to less labor and more automation.

“That interferes with our business because it starts to limit what we can sell,” he said. “As far as importing, we’re still one of the biggest users and importers of okra during the winter months, which would be December through the first week of April.”

The company is also looking into importing some newer crops that would fit into its line, perhaps bringing in some limes from Argentina.

“A lot of the industry has gone to contract pricing, and that has really caused some major problems, mainly because the chains don’t want to pay for the extra demands they are putting on the farmer,” Guida said. “You’re seeing fewer and fewer people getting involved and the suppliers are getting smaller and smaller. The chains eventually will need to pick up those additional costs.”