Tony Vitrano Co. continues to thrive

tonyv When the pandemic first hit, Tony Vitrano, president of Tony Vitrano Co., located at the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market in Jessup, MD, admits things were pretty chaotic with a lot of restaurant customers seeing business dry up.

“Fortunately for us, we have a fair amount of retail business in the area, so that picked up and helped a little bit,” he said. “Since then, with the easing of restrictions in the area, some of the foodservice business has come back with outdoor dining and home delivery, so things are leveling off.”

Of course, things are not as predictable as they once were, which can make business more of a challenge. However, the company is doing its best to pay attention to what’s happening and be ahead of the trends.

“Initially, the hearty staples seemed to sell well — things like potatoes, carrots and onions—the food that people like to stock up on,” Vitrano said. “We moved a lot more of those in the spring. Now, supply is back to normal for most of them.”

He’s seen similar stories throughout the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market, and noted the market has been pretty busy over the last few months.

“Our market area is really two segments — Baltimore and the Washington Metropolitan area, which is about twice as large as the Baltimore Metro area,” Vitrano said. “The Washington market tends to be thriving where as the Baltimore area tends to be just rolling along.”

While he doesn’t credit any “magic” secret for the company’s success through the years, he does say it’s a combination of showing up every day, working hard, bringing in what customers want and making suppliers happy.

“Part of that is having a good workforce, which we have been very fortunate to have had throughout our company’s existence,” Vitrano said. “We’ve had a number of employees who have been with us for a number of years. One lady in the office has been with us for more than 60 years. Even though some of our salesmen have recently retired, we still have many who have been here over 25 years. Warehouse workers have been here 10-20 years, so we have a lot of good, experienced workers which helps us succeed.”

With things being as they are, the company is not actively planning any growth initiatives in the months ahead, but Vitrano noted he is always looking to upgrade things like its transportation fleet.

“We have been increasing the number of trucks gradually over the past couple of years, and we will continue to do that as more of our business becomes delivery oriented,” he said.

Food safety has always been a concern, and he’s noticed regulations have become stricter and stricter, which has been a challenge — especially when there are recalls to things like Romaine lettuce or onions.

“It’s always things that are unexpected so when something happens, that becomes a challenge,” he said. “In general, people have been more interested in food safety over the last few years, and that’s an important trend that we pay strong attention to.”

Looking ahead, Vitrano feels that until a vaccine is discovered and distributed properly, it’s hard to predict what will happen.

“We just hope to hold our own and that most of our customers are able to stay afloat,” he said. “We’re here seven days a week, carrying all the produce items and offer outstanding customer service.”

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