It would be a shame, and probably a sin, to come to New York and never go out of a hotel ballroom or a convention center, so, at The New York Produce Show and Conference, we are proud to provide a panoply of regional tours — retail, wholesale, foodservice, urban agriculture and more.
Hunts Point is always a star on the tour circuit as we have pointed out here:
We asked Keith Loria, Contributing Editor at Pundit sister publication PRODUCE BUSINESS to find out what is in store for this year’s tour:
Fierman Produce Exchange
Bronx, New York
Chairman of Hunts Point PR Committee
Q: The Hunts Point Terminal Market has long been a cornerstone of the New York produce scene, which is why so many attendees of the New York Produce Show and Conference choose to take the tour. What’s on tap for this year?
A: They can experience Hunts Point first-hand, so they can see exactly how a terminal market operates, the biggest terminal market in the country. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s an interesting dynamic. It’s not like a big box store, and it’s not like a distribution warehouse; it’s a unique experience as you can see all the different people who come into this market, who make up what this market is.
Q: There have been some changes to Hunts Point over the past year… what should those who have taken the tour before be on the lookout for?
A: There are always physical changes, such as paving upgrades and rearranging of names and locations of merchants, but the heart of the market is the people and the product… and that changes every single day. You can visit Hunts Point every day and no two days are alike, because the product is always changing and the people are always moving.
Q: Has your customer base changed at all? What are the new market prospects (convenience stores, drug stores, dollar stores, etc.)?
A: The market serves many functions. We are the distribution center for independent operators in the most populous region in the country. We also help companies with their own distribution centers cover for shorts and fill-ins.
This particular market also is unique because we are an import hub for many different products. The entire New York restaurant scene would be very different if there was not a vibrant market in New York.
Q: How does Hunts Point act as a facility for local growers?
A: The market works with growers in the region, across the nation and around the world. The market has always worked with local growers. I know everyone has been doing a great job on promoting local, but if you notice the growth in local, it’s not just New York and New Jersey anymore.
In my opinion it should be considered domestic more than local. Isn’t that who we should be supporting? What makes a farmer in California any different than a farmer in Florida or Pennsylvania? Aren’t we looking to get the best product from whatever region at the best time of the year? That’s why they call it seasonality.
Let’s stop hanging our heads on these catch phrases that probably do more damage to the business than are helpful. Otherwise, in October, what happens when local disappears? Should people stop buying produce? No, they should go to the next domestic area that’s ready and support what’s being grown in the United States.
And, of course, some products don’t grow in the US at all or not at certain times of the year. We are here at Hunts Point ready to provide retailers and restaurants the options their customers want on a year-round basis.
Q: Show attendees have a choice as to what tour they can go on. Make your best pitch as to why they should choose Hunts Point?
A: You can’t stop in New York without seeing Joel Fierman — that’s what it’s about! I have often heard it said that it seems easy for terminal market wholesalers to make money, but you go through the tour, and just like when you go through the growing regions and you look at what they have to do and the extraordinary work they put into producing the product — now attendees can learn what we have to do in order to move the product and what that entails.
That’s the beauty of the tour — you see both sides of the coin. It’s a symbiotic relationship between growers and wholesalers, and we both work hard to move this product to the general public. That’s the importance of all the tours. Plus so many people have done business with a House on Hunts Point, but they never get a chance to visit. The New York Produce Show and Conference provides that opportunity.
Q: At the conclusion of the tour, there will be a Q&A. Why do you think this is a valuable component to the day?
A: We’re offering a one-on-one interaction, and guests have an opportunity to get their questions answered, just like it was a town-hall meeting. You get to hear answers from people directly involved in the market.
Q: What have people in past years been most surprised about in taking the tour?
A: The size of the market and the amount of product that passes through this market. It’s always that they didn’t realize how hard it is to work in this market.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about this year’s New York Produce Show and Conference?
A: We always look forward to greeting the people — the shippers who participate and the customers who come in. With all this technology, it has become such an impersonal business today. We have these great relationships on the telephone and over the Internet, but you can be in the same room with an individual you’ve known for a decade and not even know who they are. It’s always great to meet someone face to face, shake hands and say hello.
Q: If someone asked you for advice on the best way to navigate the market and succeed, what would you say?
A: Develop your relationship with a merchant on the market that you can trust and don’t spread yourself too thin. Spreading yourself out in the market is probably the biggest detriment to your business. Be smart on how you approach the market.
Markets get a hard knock, but their contributions are real and important. By distributing to independents, they help keep our cities vibrant. Because they help growers sell what the growers need to sell, they help maintain open space and the profitability of growers. After all, supermarkets generally buy the size, grade and variety they want to buy, but it is the markets that help growers sell what they need to sell.
Come and see the biggest city of the country — New York — and the biggest market in the country — Hunts Point. Come to the New York Produce Show and Conference.
Register for the whole event, including the Hunts Point, here.
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