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Coast Produce humbly celebrating 70 years in business

By
John Groh

Coast Produce is now entering its 70th year in business, but it is eschewing any fanfare in favor of a more humble approach embodied by its owners, John and Cheri Dunn.

While the Dunns work behind the scenes of the Los Angeles-based produce distributor, they have great influence over the decisions that guide the direction of the company.

“John has a gift and provides tremendous vision for our organization,” said Hurley Neer, general manager of Coast’s Nogales, AZ-based warehouse, which provides consolidation, ripening, inspection and cold storage services for its own products as well as outside products. “He consolidated the company years ago before that was even a buzzword in order to maximize efficiency of loads. Today, he sets the path for the direction of the company.”

Neer said Asian and Latin items are a specialty for Coast, which markets those items under the “Coast Authentic” label in a nod toward the fact that Coast is an Asian-owned company.

Product is sourced from various areas of Mexico, and all packing and production happens in L.A., according to Neer, who added that there are plans to perform some of those functions at the Nogales location.

“As things continue to develop, we’ll take on some of that. In fact, we’ll soon be doing some overwraps here in Nogales,” he said in early November, when The Produce News visited the warehouse. “And we’ll also be doing some repack and value-added packaging as well as custom tray packs.”

Neer said Coast counts 18 different items in its Latin produce line and 16 different items in its Asian line.

Some of the main items it offers in the Latin lines are a variety of hot peppers, tomatillos, thornless cactus leaves, jicama sticks and radish coins.

On the Asian line, leading items are Chinese broccoli (Gai lan), diced Daikon, King Oyster mushrooms, baby Bok Choy and halved Napa cabbage.

“We continually assess our product lines to see what is working and what we might add to complement our offerings,” said Neer. “Twenty-five years ago hot chilis were considered specialty items, but today they have become more mainstream. We believe our Asian specialty items will evolve to be commonly used in recipes by consumers in the future.”

Coast offered more specialty items, but now we lean more toward mainstream.”

Coast places a strong emphasis on customer service, and it offers what it calls “White Glove Service” to its top customers.

Under this program, customers can make one phone call to a dedicated Coast representative, who can handle all their needs.

“That is part of our culture as a company, to provide the very best customer service,” said Neer. “We’re all about taking the pain away from our customers and making things as easy as possible for them.”

Neer said Coast has an eye on further growth, and as such it added a veteran salesman to its team.

“Mike Gracia joined us in early October,” said Neer. “He is a longtime Nogales veteran who was sales manager for Oppy’s Nogales office for many years and we’re very pleased to have him on board.”

Photo: Nogales sales veteran Mike Gracia (left), who joined the Coast Produce sales team in October, with General Manager Hurley Neer at the Coast Produce office in Nogales, AZ.

John Groh

John Groh

About John Groh  |  email

John Groh graduated from the University of San Diego in 1989 with a bachelors of arts degree in English. Following a brief stint as a sportswriter covering the New York Giants football team, he joined The Produce News in 1995 as an assistant editor and worked his way up the ranks, becoming publisher in 2006. He and his wife, Mary Anne, live in northern New Jersey in the suburbs of New York City.

 

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