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TMK Produce brings a little Philly to the New York Produce Show

By
Seth Mendelson

Even folks from Philadelphia love New York. Well, at least the New York Produce Show.

Tom Kovacevich, president of TMK Produce, said this month show is always a highlight of the year, giving his team, and many like it, the opportunity to not only shine, but to engage with all types of retailers — big and small.

“This is our regional show,” said Kovacevich. “It is where the smaller retailer and purveyor take center stage. The Javits Center is a perfect size that enables us to spend some quality time with the buyers that are most interested in learning about our products and services. Every year, we get to thank so many friends we may talk to all the time but rarely get to see face to face. Additionally, we get an opportunity to meet new people which adds to the fun.”

He emphasizes that his booths, numbers 252 to 258, are shared with all the merchants of the Philadelphia Wholesale Market. “We always bring up tons of Philly style sandwiches, these are always a big hit,” he said. “So, come by and say hello, and save room for a taste of Philly.”

TMK Produce focuses on a wide range of premium items including apples, asparagus, all berries, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cherries, cilantro, corn, grapes and grapefruit. The company also carries greens, lettuces, kiwi, limes, mangoes, oranges, pears, peppers, mandarins, mangoes, onions, pomegranates, scallions, squashes, stone fruits, squash, watercress and watermelons. “All that, and few more seasonal items, is plenty to keep our nine buyers and 12 salespeople quite busy all year,” he said.

Growing the business is also an important aspect of what Kovacevich does. He said that by delivering premium product on a timely basis, growth comes naturally. “The industry is experiencing a renaissance of quality and flavor that we believe will drive consumption,” he noted. “Our focus is on having not just the best of the old standards, but the best of the new items. New varieties are exciting and drive traffic, and we dedicated to showcase these, and help our customer soar. When our customers smile, we smile too.”

Kovacevich said that TMK Produce has been in business in the city of Brotherly Love since 1984. His father, Tom Kovacevich Jr. and George Manos, the company’s current CEO, partnered up that year as brokers. “Then, in 1986, an opportunity arose when Harvey Schannauer, who was running the fruit department at Eckert’s Produce, asked George and my dad to buy the three units he was running. And that is how TMK Produce got into the wholesale business in Philadelphia,” he said.

He showed up at the company in 1986 and got some sage advice right out of the gate. “As clear as day, I can recall Harvey telling me on that first day, quite firmly I might add, “listen kid, you don’t know anything, ok? You know nothing,” Kovacevich remembered. “I can still hear him telling me that, and you know what, it was true. Even though I had worked in Hunts Point in high school, I really still had so much to learn. Harvey was a great mentor. In those early days, I spent long hours at Harvey’s side.

“I loved making the samples, and nothing made me happier than making Harvey happy when my job was done,” Kovacevich continued. “Harvey taught me many lessons. First is your word is everything, always tell the truth and do what you say. Customers will learn to trust through continual success. Another important lesson Harvey taught all of us is to strive to have the best quality available, and at all times, especially when the item is tight, and do not be afraid to buy it. This lesson is at the core of our success.”

Now, as Kovacevich likes to remember, it is more than 13,700 days since Schannauer greeted him with those words of advice. “I am so grateful for that moment and the years we got to work together,” he said. “Harvey passed in December 2002, 21 years ago and we still hear him telling us the right way to do things.”

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