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R.A.M. has been a top player in Detroit for more than three decades

While R.A.M. Produce Distributors LLC has earned its reputation as a leader on the Detroit Terminal Market for more than three decades by distributing the finest fruits and vegetables, including peppers, zucchini, broccoli, Romaine lettuce, berries, kiwi and more, it’s best known for providing customers with the finest tomatoes available.

According to Jim Bommarito of R.A.M.’s sales department, the company is seeing success through tomatoes imported from Mexico and also with locally grown products. Especially popular, he said, are greenhouse-grown beefsteak and vines they offer through Mastronardi Produce.

“The locally grown greenhouse product is becoming a lot bigger,” he said. “People, at least in this area from what I can tell, consumers really appreciate home-grown products and they like to see that in their stores. It gets bigger every year.”

He added that one of the key reasons for the demand of locally grown tomatoes is freshness.

“The quality is excellent because it’s obviously not traveling as far and there’s less time from farm to table, just with the shipping,” Bommarito said.

Organics also remain popular, but they can be hard to come by because they are harder to grow. And when it comes to variety, Bommarito said there are a “ton” of different varieties, and they are all selling, including multi-colored cherry tomatoes.

“Honestly, I never thought they would take off,” he said. “There’s yellow, red, a brownish-purple one, and they’re all mixed together. Food service seems to like them and they sell well at retail too.”

The industry faces its challenges, of course, and Bommarito cites recalls as one of the biggest, especially with Romaine lettuce.

“It seems like every time Romaine is $30, there’s a recall on Romaine,” he said. “It’s very expensive because the shippers are saying it’s not their Romaine, and it’s never been one of my shippers. But the media puts out that there’s mass panic and you can’t eat Romaine but they have no idea where it’s traced to. And the CDC puts this out and they have no idea, and they say, ‘don’t eat Romaine’ and I have a cooler of $30 Romaine.”

And even though that lettuce is fine, the recalls scare people off from buying any of the product.

“The whole industry takes a hit for it,” Bommarito said. “It still hasn’t responded from the last recall, which happened three months ago.”

On the plus side, Bommarito says the city of Detroit is experiencing exciting times, including a thriving dining scene, which has been a boon for business.

“There are a lot of new fine dining establishments; every week they seem to be opening a new higher-end white-tablecloth restaurant, and they’re all doing well,” he said. “I don’t think people are cooking at home as much. The Grubhubs of the world are helping the food service industry grow. You can get whatever you want without leaving your house.”

He described Detroit as an extremely competitive market, and said that R.A.M. Produce’s rich legacy of success is due to simple hard work.

“It’s not a business you can stay home with, you have to work it,” Bommarito said. “You have to have people who are willing to work, from the guys who pull orders and sales people and buyers, they all work a lot of hours. That’s the key to this business, if you work hard, you should make it.”