Philly’s Emerging Fresh Age


Philadelphia’s produce community is ripe with new talent. “There is so much room for new generations to come into the produce business in Philly,” says Vincent Finazzo, owner of retailer/wholesaler Riverwards Produce, located in the Fishtown section of the city.

Mentoring youth is important to Procacci Brothers Sales Corporation because it is the future, according to president Mike Maxwell. “We believe in thoroughly training them in all our departments so they understand all of what they’re being asked to do,” he says. “We have young people throughout the organization going through this training process.”

Carlos Rodriguez, director of sales for Procacci, is a great example of how this process developed a valuable team member. “He started in 2012 in operations managing the line and was an intern from St. Joseph’s University,” says JM Procacci, chief executive at Procacci. “Carlos has excelled in every position he has had.”

Gabrielle Procacci, the daughter of JM Procacci, is a management trainee with an interest in pursuing social responsibility issues. She believes significant changes in the industry push younger workers to look forward. “The younger generation needs to be more concerned about creating an industry that can last longer, something sustainable,” she says. “As the industry changes, we need the younger generations to look toward adapting to that change.”

Joseph Procacci III is director of farm operations in New Jersey. “His training program also requires he work in all the divisions,” says JM Procacci. “One of the issues I’m concerned about for the future is the lack of young people coming in at the farm level. There is a lot of pressure at farm level right now, and we need to mentor our youth to keep them interested in farming.”

T.M. Kovacevich adds youth to its business not only through full-time employees but also via interns. The company currently utilizes intern Christopher Walker, a student at St. Joseph’s, to address specific projects related to alternative retail formats.

Todd Penza, a salesman with Pinto Brothers, sees younger generations earning their place at the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market. “Here at Pinto Brothers, our newest third-generation family member, Matt Penza, joined us this summer after graduating college,” he says. “He is sales coordinator.”

At Nardella, RJ Durante works sales next to his father, John Durante. Nardella’s nighttime supervisor, Frank McDonald, is another Nardella grandson. “Frank, like me, started from the bottom and worked his way up,” says RJ Durante. “The night shift is especially challenging because you get less help, so you’ve got more responsibility.”

At John Vena Inc., John Vena’s son, Daniel Vena, has been on board for 15 years. “Since coming into his role as director of sales, he’s building a sales team that knows its stuff and is equipped to handle some pretty complicated customer needs,” says John Vena. “These younger team members are mixing well with our industry vets, many of whom have been with the company for 25 years or more.”

John Miklosey, nephew of B.R.S. Produce president Rick Milavsky, works in sales. “I’ve been around this all my life,” says Miklosey. “The business is changing some, but there are other aspects that don’t change. It’s a boon for us that people increasingly want fresh foods.”

At Colonial Produce, owner Stephen Secamiglio is part of the younger generation of the market. “A lot has changed since I started in the business 15 years ago,” he says. “It’s always going to be a challenging business, and we have just to keep going hard and giving it our all.”

Teddy and Louis Kean, sons of Ted Kean, have worked at the market their whole lives but joined E.W. Kean full time eight years ago. “It’s been really fun to work here,” says Louis Kean, sales. “You meet a lot of really interesting people.”

M. Levin marks four generations of family members. “This year we celebrate our 112th year in business, and yes, hard to believe still the same family,” says Mark Levin, chief executive. “Our newest addition is my granddaughter, Olivia, born in January 2018. She comes to work with her mom, Tracie, on a regular basis. We’re already working on grooming the fifth generation of produce professionals.”