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75 Years Strong

75 Years Strong

Adaptation is much more than reacting to a current business climate, situation, or market change. From behind the scenes, companies work diligently to keep their business operations relevant. In fresh produce, this can be a challenge, especially as technology and shifting buy-side qualifications make each decision a daunting task.

Counteracting the pain points of adaptation can be a tricky road to navigate, but certain mindsets and perspectives make the drive smoother.

Take, for instance, the gift that is knowledge, passed down hand to hand over generations. The wisdom of years past can make weathering change all the easier—and ensure decisions aren’t made in the heat of the moment.

“The produce industry itself is very fluid. You have to be able to adapt in order to survive, and we’ve been doing just that since our inception,” Gabriela D’Arrigo, Vice President of Communications and Marketing for D’Arrigo New York, shares with me. “We like to think of our company as a stabilizing force in an unstable environment.”

No one in the industry would find fault with calling produce unstable—it’s almost like we love it all the more for its unpredictability. For some, this love has transformed business operations into miniature empires in their own right.

For D’Arrigo New York, it’s become a passion gifted to the generations who have followed in its family’s footsteps. Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, the distributor takes a look back at the dream that started it all.

“To be honest, the founding vision is still the vision today. That is what has made us successful. We initially sought to expand the distribution of the brands and labels we sell from our suppliers to the Northeast region of the United States and bring fresh fruit and vegetables to consumers,” Gabriela tells me.

Built from the ground up on strong core values and tireless effort, D’Arrigo New York has come a long way since it began as a small facility in Washington Market—now known as TriBeCa in New York City. In 1967, the company moved to Hunts Point Produce Market, New York, where it has steadily expanded and grown its portfolio of product offerings.

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the distributor expanded its previous four stalls—cooler spaces—to 36 stalls. Two additional offsite facilities followed, these being built in the past six years alone.

“We’ve maintained the family business mentality,” Gabriela remarks with pride. “There are nine active members in New York, which have brought us to a more corporate level. The 75-year mark is an incredible feat that I know we are all very proud of. We were built on simple family values that have been instilled in each generation. It’s the cornerstone of who we are today.”

Gabriela notes that the wholesaler’s success is an example of the American Dream realized, a fact furthered by the company’s Fourth of July anniversary date.

"The produce industry itself is very fluid. You have to be able to adapt in order to survive, and we’ve been doing just that since our inception."

Gabriela D’Arrigo, Vice President of Communications and Marketing, D’Arrigo New York

“We decided to pay homage to our anniversary at a cocktail reception following this year’s New York Produce Show in December. All the suppliers and customers who have helped us along the way were invited to celebrate,” Gabriela says.

Throughout its 75 years, D’Arrigo New York has adapted to the changing needs of the market. The wholesaler has implemented a rigorous food safety program, increased its refrigerated warehouse space, and advanced its trucking department.

The latest step in the company’s growth phase is the launch of an online ordering platform for its customer base.

“This will lead to expanding our distribution network, which I believe will open more doors for growth in our future,” Gabriela asserts. “Over the past several months, we’ve been running a soft launch of this program and are thrilled with the success we’ve seen to date.”

In the past, the company’s customers would place orders face-to-face at the market, by calling a salesperson, or by faxing an order. Now, they can use the platform to order directly through its Produce Pro system, where its entire product lineup can be found.

Because orders can be placed online through the web-based platform or a mobile app, this brings the company’s customers new levels of convenience. They can also utilize the help of a salesperson to add to an online order, ask questions about products, or negotiate pricing. The reverse is also a possibility, starting an order with a salesperson and finishing it online.

The fact that the personal connection is still available is one of my favorite aspects of the new platform. Although I myself am not a D’Arrigo New York customer, I know the inherent value of being able to hear someone’s voice on the other end of a telephone line. An adaptation fitting for our relationship-driven industry.

Gabriela and I circle back to the anniversary at the heart of this article. Her pride in what her family has accomplished flourishes.

“Seventy-five years is extremely humbling. It represents a culture of hard work, respect, and honesty. This wouldn’t have been attainable without the loyalty of our customers and the dedication of our employees. I’m beyond proud of what we’ve done,” Gabriela concludes.

Adapting will always be par for the course in the world that is fresh produce, but with drivers like D’Arrigo New York behind the wheel, I know that its customers are in good hands. 

75 Years Strong