Nickey Gregory relies on retail during difficult year
Nickey Gregory Co., a full-service produce wholesaler with 20 years of service to the Southeast, had just opened up a brand new distribution facility early this year when the coronavirus led to foodservice shutdowns and greatly altered business practices. By all accounts, 2020 has been a very difficult year, but Director of Business Development Andrew Scott said the company has worked through the turmoil and has registered growth in some areas.
“It is fair to say that we have survived the year rather than thrived during it,” he noted. “We have been able to keep all our employees and our foodservice sales have bounced back. I’d say we are at about 75 percent (of previous foodservice sales).”
Scott said the company has continued to operate at a high level by adding new avenues of business. “The Farmers to Families box program was a shot in the arm for us,” he said. “Because of it, we didn’t have to lay anyone off. Our retail business also remained strong and grew. We also added sales to some home delivery company. That business was way up as more people were shopping from home.”
The wholesaler found that pockets of its foodservice business continued to do well even as some operations were closed for an extended period of time. Scott noted that the fast-food outlets with their take-out option saw their business increase with long lines of customers during the peak of the shutdowns. In turn, those companies bought more produce. He added that Nickey Gregory’s Family Fresh Foods division, which processes foodservice packs, added some new options as portion packs of produce for home delivery meal kits also registered strong sales growth. He said at both retail and foodservice, consumers were looking for more packaged products with the expectation that the raw products were touched less by human hands.
Scott recalls that the several of the company executives were at the Southeast Produce Council’s 2020 Southern Exposure in late February when concerns over the coronavirus began to escalate. ”That was the last show of the year,” he said. “We are looking forward to the next one… whenever that will be.”
Though Scott stands by his characterization that 2020 was a difficult year, he is very optimist moving forward. He noted the good vaccination news that surfaced in late November and also said the economy seems pretty strong.
Though coronavirus cases were spiking again in November during this conversation, he applauded the Georgia governor for keeping the state’s businesses open and continuing to move forward.
“It’s a state by state and governor by governor thing,” he said. “Our governor is doing a good job.”
The company celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and Scott said it is well positioned to continue service the Southeast from both its Atlanta and Miami warehouses. From Atlanta, Nickey Gregory services 10 states in the region ranging as far west as Louisiana and as far north as West Virginia. Its Miami distribution facility services South Florida.
Photo: Gary Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner, with Cheryl and Nickey Gregory.