Perhaps it is customary to play it cool when one has launched a successful new industry institution such as The New York Produce Show and Conference — make it seem as if we always knew that success was inevitable.
Yet, through the years, we would say that one of the things that has led to some measure of success for this Pundit and sister publication PRODUCE BUSINESS is that we have had the advantage of the entrepreneurial experience. We have sweated out payrolls and have seen things not work out. Yet we made more right decisions than wrong and so we are not only here, 25 years after launch, but have grown and prospered and made contributions that people have valued. One of those contributions has been telling the truth.
LET THE SHOW BEGIN: The Pundit cuts the ribbon with
(left to right) Philanthropist Laurie M. Tisch,
South Carolina Commissioner Hugh Weathers,
Famed Author Joan Nathan,
EPC’s Executive Director John McAleavey and
New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher
The truth is that maybe we should credit the success of the Show to Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, who wrote a great business book titled Only the Paranoid Survive. Whether survival is the right word we are not certain about, but certainly a sense of paranoia leads one to not rest on one’s laurels and triggers actions that, in this case, ultimately led to the success of The New York Produce Show and Conference.
NETWORKING IN NEW YORK: Paul Kneeland of King’s Super Markets pauses for a pose with Peppe Bonfiglio and Paul Mastronardi
of Mastronardi Produce
Those of us at PRODUCE BUSINESS linked hands with the good people at the Eastern Produce Council to create the event, because we knew that two heads are better than one, and that the group was more powerful than the individual.
LEARNING ANNEX: The morning’s Keynote Breakfast featured 10 retailers on stage, and the educational micro-sessions featured lectures from professors, authors and one of
Africa’s largest retailers, who brought his own
vuvuzela to the event.
Yet, even with this solid alignment, if we can share the actual entrepreneurial dream it mostly involved a nightmare — waking up in the middle of the night for a full year haunted by the vision of an empty hall. Imagine an event — a giant hall — and not a soul in it.
NOW ON DISPLAY …Top Chef Camille Becerra put on continuous demonstrations
of more than 12 produce items throughout the day while
212 exhibitors displayed their latest and greatest.
Yet we are grateful for that paranoid nightmare because that is what drove us. We just wouldn’t be satisfied. So we wound up with a World Class general session and conference program, an incredible media program, an unprecedented “consumer influencer” program, a fantastic spouse program on the 41st floor over looking New York. There were chefs and baseball players and the unveiling of new programs and the revealing of hitherto unknown research.
There was Jim Allen, father of an Afghanistan War veteran, giving an invocation on the eve of Veterans Day; there was Theresa Nolan, who we stood by during her tortuous trial, rising to speak with the awesome power that comes when love and justice are combined. The leaders of retailing stood en masse, declaring that they were part of the community assembled. Yet others from as far away as Africa also spoke, showing that we were open to learning from near and far.
WELL REPRESENTED: Exhibitors were well balanced between regional suppliers and national brand marketers.
The trade show was incredible; one booth more artful than the next, each revealing more innovative product than his neighbor. Not only was traffic sustained all day, but the ratio of buyers to exhibit space exceeded one buyer per twelve square feet of exhibit space — an almost unheard-of accomplishment in these days of consolidation.
This all happened because, as all success happens, opportunity met preparation. The community needed a place to gather and for a year a team of dedicated professionals worked day and night to build it. Of course we also had the enormous advantage that comes when you are doing work that comes from the heart.
AFTER THE SHOW: Capping off the events were Thursday’s bus tours to the Hunts Point Produce Market, Philadelphia’s new Wholesale Market (and Wegmans on the way home),
Manhattan retailers and New Jersey suburban retailers.
On the last day of the event, we sent out 150 people on tours around the region. One was to the Hunts Point Market. When they went around the group asking each member of the tour to identify themselves, the turn came for Ellen Rosenthal, who heads up the New York region for PRODUCE BUSINESS, to identify herself. When she said she was one of the organizers of the show, the assembled attendees and exhibitors gave her an ovation.
This was an incredible few days in the Big Apple.
There is much more to tell and we will have pieces related to the event for some time to come.
For now, an immense thanks to all who participated — sponsors, exhibitors, attendees. No plans would have meant anything without your support and participation.
We would also like to make a promise. If the first rule of business is Andy Grove’s “only the paranoid survive” — we will add a second suggestion for all successful businesses: Don’t get cocky.
We promise to work twice as hard and, with a little experience under our belt, twice as smart — to make the 2011 version of the New York Produce Show and Conference twice as fantastic!
If you would like information on exhibiting or sponsoring at next year’s show please let us know here.
If you would like information on attending next year’s event, please let us know here.