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TMK Produce, Tom Kovacevich, Philadelphia Wholesale Market, Pineapple Fruit Boats

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TMK Produce, Tom Kovacevich, Philadelphia Wholesale Market, Pineapple Fruit Boats

TMK Produce, Tom Kovacevich, Philadelphia Wholesale Market, Pineapple Fruit Boats

At almost 7:30 am arriving at the entry gate on Essington Avenue into the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market, the friendly guard bids good morning before offering passage and instructing me into the expansive lot, an immediate right before weaving around to the left, section letter A.   The large scope of parking lot surrounding the seeming miles long, rectangular metal exterior Distribution Center whose sections host equally large insignia labeled delivery trucks helps me to confirm my destination, TMK Produce, that is, T.M. Kovacevich, Phila., Inc. Distributors of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.  I park in an allotted slot and before pulling the plug off my GPS that assured my prompt appointment arrival time and am already greeted by my affable, smiling host and Owner, Tom Kovacevich III. 

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 Climbing the few steps to the landing, Tom opens the heavy entry door to his refrigerated heaven, all twenty acres of it. Wood flatbed Pallets to the right are loaded with crates of premium fruits along with some select vegetables moved about by workers operating the mechanized lifting machines coming in and going out. Fresh produce arrives twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week by truck, air, and rail.

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Above: Tom Kovacevich, III, Center, Owner of TMK Produce along with Produce Order Coordinators, Jacob Mock, left, and Claude DePlato, right

Open for operation twenty-four hours a day, from Sunday morning to Friday afternoon, Saturdays by appointment only, most of the action at the Distribution Center according to Tom really happens between 7 and 10 am as many of the Produce Entrepreneurs from around the region arrive to check out products and line the counter areas negotiating price. Others scatter about small tables or in the fashionable cafe sharing coffee between companions and speaking in low voices as if discreetly discussing price fluctuations or some secret like the upcoming annual crop report.

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We begin at the TMK storefront area meticulously maintained and greet the employees, all but one, busy in the closeted style area quietly negotiating prices with an important customer.  Tom goes off to grab a cup of his morning caffeine fix while I busy myself photographing the obvious reason the TMK specializes in premium fruits, along with their fresh produce varieties. The case-filled boxes decoratively stored on red metal diagonal shelving bulge with selections of apples, the ‘Plum-Apricot’ called Red Velvet, bright pinkish red stalks of rhubarb, pomegranates, juicy watermelons, and full leaf, thin stemmed dark green spinach, just to name a mere few. 

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 Heated cup of Joe in tow, Kovacevich points forward as the tour proceeds with a stroll taking in the full length of the Philadelphia Wholesale Market with varied designated Distributors on each side to include all of the other generations-old wholesale merchants who now collectively share one state of the art fully refrigerated facility. We chat with someone at most all of the businesses and either before or after providing the opportunity to photo crates and lined shelves of fresh, bright fruits and vegetables.

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 Arriving in Philadelphia as a temporary juncture expanding the Kovacevich family Distributorship from New York some years back, Tom beams a grand smile happy that the experience kept him in Philadelphia, the city he grew to love. Today’s Philadelphia TMK equivalent twenty-acre facility is the obvious source of pride and joy to Tom and his second is touring others through the facility inspiring enthusiasm for the magnificence of this highly efficient modern-day creation.  Carrying many of the same or similar varieties of premium fruit and vegetable products between the Distribution Center business sales mostly break down into a variety of specialty niche markets such as Asian Produce Markets, Small Produce Markets, Various Ethnic Markets, Supermarkets, and Restaurants.

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Tom explains “Local” in the fruit and vegetable distribution segment includes Distributors who are not only importers, but they distribute from among what is seasonally freshest and best quality from around the world.  “There is a misconception that we are not local,” said Tom “but what many people do not understand is that we are.” ‘We (referring to all of the businesses at the Center) each have long-time relationships with all of the local producing farms throughout the entire region and we have for years. When Jersey and Pennsylvania tomatoes are at their peak ripeness, for example, everyone has already long been in ongoing communication with these farms and, in many circumstances has already pre-bought whole fields of produce from many local farmers.’ “The same goes for all of the fruit and vegetables that are produced in our entire region as products become seasonal; everything locally produced is locally provided.”

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Tom also explains the many complex chains and levels of sale within the fruit and vegetable market and how the Distribution Center serves as a central source for all types of buyers, including those discounted. Some local products may be at peak freshness but do not possess the ‘look’ to command premium prices “We find buyers for these products too so that local farmers are not left with a lot of unsaleable fruits and vegetables; we also purchase whole fields knowing that every fruit or vegetable may not be perfect.” Said, Kovacevich.

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 One example relative to individual purchasing is supposing the plan to put up batches of tomato sauce for the winter months which requires larger volumes of fresh tomatoes and so may have interest in buying a larger batch at a lesser price for tomatoes that are not the perfect looking tomatoes as one might choose for a specific fresh dish. Segway markets as discount produce markets, grocery stores, and even Farmers Markets seasonally provide this option provided through Distribution Channels. The off-to-the-side signs advertising a specially marked price for a bushel, or larger batches of imperfectly shaped tomatoes are a suitable way for keeping nutritionally valuable and fresh foods from going to waste.

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With approximately forty businesses comprising the Wholesale facility the roots among many of these common businesses trace back to Colonial Times to the original central fruit and vegetable hub on Dock Street, using the mode of horse-drawn carriages insuring produce delivery to the Distribution Center of the time. Today’s state-of-the-art facility, now called the Philadelphia Wholesale Market produces a combined estimated sales of somewhere around a billion dollars.

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In addition to the Philadelphia region, TMK Produce also provides products and deliveries to Virginia, New York, and Western Pennsylvania.

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Beyond produce business entrepreneurs, representatives, or chefs, today, the general public may also now shop at the Philadelphia Wholesale Market on Essington Avenue, the key is to buy in cases.

The purchasing opportunity is worthwhile for those who require large amounts of a particular product and the price is right, or sharing a seasonal premium quality product between a group of friends.

Accessibility is one key feature that Produce Distributors regularly provide to us ensuring the availability of specialties at our local markets, including those treasured by various cultures from throughout the world, mangoes are a good example. Pointing to the pallet loaded up cases high Tom shared with me that the particular Distributor had just sold 1, 500 pallets at 3,000 pounds each to an Indian market in the region. That makes for one heck of a lot of mangoes.  

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Second Photos 133 Once you enter the facility with no curves or entryways it is impossible to get lost walking up and back straight away with its bright natural light-filled space and high ceiling curvatures. Despite this, taking a tour of the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market provides a deeper insight not only into the processes of local, but the import/export systems that include the greatest variety of fruits and vegetables you have ever seen, premium that is.

If you are interested in putting a small group together for a tour or purchasing a case or two of one of your favorite in-season fruits or vegetables TMK Produce is eager to share the selection of market delights offered throughout the facility,  with the added fun of observing the pure joy among those working in this fruits and vegetables distribution industry, all under one amazing state of the art clean, bright, and refrigerated, Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market. You can read more about TMK Produce and the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market here.

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Spiced Peach Blog extends sincere appreciation and Thanks to Tom Kovacevich for the invitation, hospitality, and opportunity of sharing with all of you a little insight into the Distribution of Fruits and Vegetables in Philadelphia, TMK Produce with Tom Kovacevich at The Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market.

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