Imagine waking up each morning in early 1900s New York City, driving your horse and wagon to the local farm, filling it with fruits and vegetables, and staying out all day until you’ve sold all of your produce.
That was the start of S. Katzman Produce, which is now a 120-year-old, fourth-generation owned, produce wholesaler and distributor with 375 employees and over 2,000 items they sell. Talk about a progression! Stefanie Katzman, the Executive Vice President of S. Katzman Produce, shared with us the story of her great grandfather’s humble beginnings and how they progressed to selling fruit and vegetables out of his wagon, to moving their location to Hunts Point in the Bronx, to adding specialty items to their product line, to becoming the produce industry icon they are today.
Stefanie accredits much of their growth to the produce industry’s growth as a whole. Can you think back to what your grocery store shopping experience was like in 1995 compared to now? Luckily, most suburban and metropolitan areas around the US have access to an incredible variety of produce year-round. That wasn’t always the case. Also, as our lifestyles have changed from having family dinners every night around the table, to being more fast-paced and on-the-go, the produce industry has adapted.
For example, in 2004 S. Katzman Produce started doing deliveries to their customers free of charge. Katzman works with a lot of smaller supermarkets around the New York area where, oftentimes, the owner does everything themselves. They’ll come to S. Katzman’s location late at night, do their shopping for the next day, drive back to the store, stock their shelves, and work the register without any sleep. It was that same mentality and quick ability to adapt that helped S. Katzman Produce stay successful when COVID-19 first hit.
Katzman and her team immediately provided employees with training videos, made sure they were following the CDC guidelines, offered employees protective equipment, and increased cleaning crews to two to three times a day. It was essential to keep her employees safe, but also their wholesalers, distributors and customers.
What’s just as important to S. Katzman Produce is being able to help people and children who can’t help themselves, and making a difference in children’s lives while they’re still young.
S. Katzman Produce has partnered with Dream Charter School at their location in Harlem and the Bronx to donate food weekly and help ensure children are fed healthy food at a young age. When COVID-19 hit, impressively, Dream set up a distribution system within a few weeks and Katzman started donating even larger amounts of produce each week to provide fresh, healthy produce for Dream’s children and their entire families.
“If you can instill these good habits and good behaviors in children when they’re young, you’re going to create healthy people when they’re older. You’re going to create people who have a taste for these fruits and vegetables, so being able to get to them is very important.” – Stefanie Katzman (13:07-13:20)
These children and their families are getting exposed to foods they might not have ever seen or heard of before, while (hopefully) acquiring a taste for healthy food at a young age to create lasting results. The feedback Katzman has gotten is incredible! Even during a pandemic, families are reporting that they are losing weight and enjoying the best health of their life because of this.
Stefanie’s also passionate about the wide variety of items they offer and how many new products there are! New varieties of old products, new packaging, never-seen-before products, and even the science of extending shelf life keep the produce industry and life at S. Katzman’s always exciting.
“Food is culture! It doesn’t matter what socio-economic status, what type of food access you have, every single person is united by food.” – Lori Taylor (16:29-16:41)
How to get involved
- Join The Produce Moms Group on Facebook and continue the discussion every week!
- Reach out to us – we’d love to hear more about where you are in life and business! Find out more here.
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- Episode 136: All Things Citrus And The Beauty Of MandaRosa With Kim Flores, Vice President Of Business Development And Marketing For Pro Citrus Network
- Episode 135: Creating Long-Term Sustainability With Produce Packaging With Jeff Watkin, Director Of Marketing For Sev-Rend
- Episode 134: Moms Are Drowning, But The Produce Industry Can Help With The Moms Of Produce
- Episode 133: Covid-19 Vaccines For Agriculture’s Essential Workforce With Christopher Valadez, President Of The Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, And Dante Galeazzi, President Of The Texas International Produce Association