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Rocky Produce in midst of busy summer

As a fourth-generation family-owned wholesale distributor, Rocky Produce has seen Michigan’s produce industry rise to become a major player in the U.S. Working out of Detroit’s Produce Terminal, the company deals in a full line of fruits and vegetables from local, domestic, and international sources.

It has a strong customer base in Detroit and the surrounding areas, but its distribution area has expanded through the years to include retailers in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, South and up into Ontario.

As the calendar turned to June, the company was working feverishly to keep up with the busy start of summer season.

“This is the busiest time of year for us,” said Dominic Russo, buying and sales director/logistics coordinator for Rocky Produce. “It’s a time when everyone comes out of hibernation. You get the spring crops. Strawberry season from California starts to come in, grapes come in, cantaloupes and watermelons come in, corn is kicked in, asparagus has started up, so there’s a lot going on.”

June is also the time when the company receives the first specialty items from its home-grown area out of Michigan, as local growers start to harvest their crops.

“People are barbequing more and getting together more, plus there are graduation parties going on and weddings happening, so there are many things going on where people are celebrating and need to eat good food,” Russo said. “It’s our favorite time of year for sure, because we know business will always be strong.”

Once the Fourth of July comes, business tails off a bit because more people are scattering around on vacations, but that’s also the time that a lot of local produce comes in, and so Rocky Produce turns more attention to those products.

“Us being distributors, we handle all those items and enjoy handling those and promoting our homegrown growers,” Russo said. “But people have their own gardens and there are families who are supplying a lot of our customers, so it’s not as active a market towards the end of the summer, but that’s typical.”

The reason Rocky Produce has lasted multiple decades, Russo said, comes down to the company philosophy of being diligent and consistent, and providing customers with the very-best product at the right price.

“We have the right kind of quality and the right relationships with growers that we partner with, and value those highly. Many of those relationships have been for several decades,” Russo said. “There are always new relationships that come about every year, and we value them all and try to represent them the best we can.”

Russo commends the farmers who work in the area and believe they are among the best growers in the business.

“They work so hard and put together a beautiful pack of fruits or vegetables,” he said. “We’ve seen some of the best produce come out of Michigan than any growing area that comes shipped in.”

This year has been rather typical for Rocky Produce, but that just means it’s “steady as it goes” and Russo is happy that things are staying strong and its customers continue to be happy.

“We are a very specific piece of the produce puzzle here in Michigan, but we are a very big piece, and we work to be a great value to the growers and relevant to our customers,” he said.