Metro Beat

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A big development came to the local dairy industry when news broke that the Farmland Dairies plant in Wallington, NJ was shutting down. Farmland’s owner, Dallas-based Borden Dairy, an affiliate of Mexican based Grupo LaLa, said it will continue to produce its products at other plants and service their local customers. The Farmland brand has a rich history with roots as a small dairy farm started by the Goldman family in 1914 in Fair Lawn, NJ. In 1971 the operation moved to a new facility in Wallington, NJ where it has been ever since. Marc Goldman served as Farmland’s president for 10 years, and one of his claims to fame and a successful Farmland product was his development of Skim Plus. Farmland became the first outside dairy granted a license to sell milk in New York City in 70 years in the mid-1980’s after winning a landmark constitutional case. The Goldman family sold Farmland to Italian food company Parmalat in 199, and when Parmalat ran into legal trouble, Grupo LaLa bought it in 2009.

Right before the ringing in of the New Year, word came that the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market had renewed its lease with NYC and will be remaining in their current site for at least the next seven years. After several years of contentious negotiations and whispers of plans to move to New Jersey, the agreement keeps the wholesale market and its 3,000 jobs in the Bronx until June 2021. The agreement is a step toward developing a long-term lease plan to overhaul the 100 acre market. The city consented to reduce the maximum annual rent the market pays to $4 million from $4.5 million and in return, the market agreed to reduce the amount it can deduct from that rent for repairs it makes to its infrastructure to $1.5 million from $2.25 million annually.

The White Rose Food team was busy at the end of the year as the helped unveil two new locations in the Bronx. Owner Jose Grullon and his staff debuted a spectacular Antillana Super Food Marketplace 10,500 square foot location on Jerome Avenue, just a juiced-up A-Bomb from A-Rod shot away from Yankee Stadium. The site is a ground-up build-out of an old storage unit building and is absolutely a must see. Exposed brick walls, open meat cutting stations and open and diverse produce departments give a terrific visual and aesthetic appeal. Jose is a perfectionist with an attention to detail and it really works in this locale. Jose also opened a second Antillana Super Food on West Fordham Avenue. It is a much smaller unit at 3,000 square feet, but he really squeezes every inch out of opportunity out of the space. He is already in negotiation with the building’s landlord to take over an additional 2,000 square feet to blow out a wall and expand so they can better serve the underserved neighborhood.

The White Rose Food team also received a big boost with word that the big wholesaling entity had a signed a 10 year supply agreement with Associated Food Holdings. As many of you know, Associated was acquired a year ago by AUA Private Equity Partners, LLC .  The news comes at a great time for White Rose president Joe Fantozzi and his team as they continue to navigate through competitive choppy waters.  Congrats, Joe.

And separately at Associated, AUA Private Equity Partners announced that it had recapitalized Associated, distributing in excess of 30 percent of invested capital back to its investors within ten months of the firm’s original investment. Andy Unanue, managing partner of AUA Equity and chairman of the board of Associated said, “We are pleased to have the opportunity to recapitalize Associated in the short time we have owned the company with Associated’s co-CEO’s Harry Laufer and Ira Gober. The company generates strong cash flow due to the outstanding business model that Harry and Ira have developed over the past thirty-five years and we are pleased to be able to return to our investors over 30 percent of their original investment and simultaneously increase our ownership of the company.”

Finally, and as we were going to press we heard that John Coppola had joined the team at Krasdale Foods in White Plains in a yet to be determined position. John had been the VP of business development and merchandising at White Rose Foods.  Ken Krasne, vice chairman at Krasdale and CEO of Alpha 1 Marketing, has been putting together an exceptional staff as he works to position the family’s business for the next generation’s successful run. (See Dennis Hickey, Gus Lebiak, Jack Kelly as some of the past year’s hires that have brought solid expertise and credentials to the firm). When we have the official word on John’s new responsibilities we will pass them along.

Well, I trust you all had a terrific holiday season, and are ready to embark on the year 2014 with energy and focus. It’s what we all want, isn’t it? We all look to the new year as an opportunity for new things and hope for a better year than the last. I believe this coming year will bring a variety of changes to our industry and we look forward to being there for you to discuss and report on them.

Happy New Year! I hope 2014 is a great one for you and your loved ones.