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Cavallaro longs for the ‘Good Ole Days’

As the calendar turned to December, Skip Cavallaro, Jr., owner and president of John Cerasuolo Co., located at the New England Produce Center, reflected on the year. He saw some things happening in the industry that he’s not too crazy about.

“Times change. A lot of people just don’t have the time they used to, so they go into a store and buy some cut-up cubes or packages of little broccoli and cauliflower packaged up nice together, and they seem to take the easy way out,” he said. “That’s ok though; you just have to work around what’s going on and find a way to make it work.”

cerasuolo-staff-vert Skip Cavallaro III, general manager of John Cerasuola Co., and Michael Ferro, sales representative, flank Skip Cavallaro Jr. (seated), president of the company.He also feels the higher costs on produce prices is impacting the entire chain — from growers to retail, and that is causing people to purchase less produce, focusing on just what’s needed or what’s on sale.

“You look at the pepper deal, and before it was a lot of green peppers but now it’s a lot of red, yellow, hothouse and orange, and that’s a big change,” Cavallaro said. “For cucumbers, you have seedless coming in taking sales away. You just have to learn to deal.”

To do that, Cavallaro noted that he gets up every morning and pays attention to the market and does what he feels is needed to make his shippers happy. “To be a success today in New England, you need to have a strong back and a weak mind, and I’m not kidding,” Cavallaro said. “You have to be willing to put time in and adapt and you can’t give people what you want to give them, you have to give the people what they are looking for. The old way just doesn’t work the same way anymore.”

He’s talking about the early days, such as back in 1972, when the company was purchased from its original owners who had been in business for more than eight decades. The company has always offered a full line of staple vegetables that people need regardless of whether they are eating at home or at a restaurant and its customers include retail chains, independent retailers and foodservice operators. It ships throughout New England.

“The truck issue is a major, major challenge that doesn’t look like it’s going away. It seems there are more trucks than drivers and that’s a problem,” Cavallaro said. “Even with a crystal ball, I don’t think I could give you an answer on how to fix this. You can’t go to freight trains. Someone has to look into it though, because it seems like sometimes you have a truck and they are getting ready to load but you lose them because they go somewhere else for more money. You have no control over them and you lose a load. It’s not fair.”

Again, he compares the produce business in 2018 to that of years gone by, longing for the days when things weren’t as challenging. Looking ahead to 2019, Cavallaro hopes to keep chugging along and offering the same great service that it has since it first began in the business.

“We have the same little group of people and we’re not looking to expand, but we are going along and doing what we can,” he said. “I’d love to see things catch fire in 2019 and for things to go really good. I’m not talking getting prices out of whack, but if the guy growing can make a profit and the truckers can make a profit and we can and the last guy can — it everyone makes a little money on the deal, we can keep this thing rolling.”