Produce and specialty distributor B. Giambrone & Co. has been able to maintain a more personal relationship with its customers. “We have more one-on-one communications with our customers, that means a lot in our industry,” President and owner Ben Giambrone says. Based in Rochester, N.Y., B. Giambrone & Co. distributes produce within a 60-mile radius of its home city. The company’s history goes back to 1904, when Giambrone’s grandparents, Benedetto and Francesca Giambrone, started the company and sold fresh produce door-to-door from a pushcart.
As the company grew, it opened a retail and wholesale facility that served the Rochester metro area. As the business grew, the retail store was closed to concentrate on the growing wholesale market. However, in 1987, its warehouse was destroyed in a fire and B. Giambrone & Co. moved to its current location in Rochester, a 20,000-square-foot, fully refrigerated facility.
Today, B. Giambrone & Co. services schools, hospitals, hotels and country clubs, as well as restaurants and private clubs. Giambrone notes that many of the firm’s customers have been doing business with the company for more than 20 years.
“That’s loyalty,” he says. “They deal with us because they know our reputation for the quality and service we can give as opposed to the broad line distributors, who have strict minimums and although they offer a full line of products they specialize in none.
“Produce is 90 percent of our business,” Giambrone continues, adding that the company also distributes frozen fruits and vegetables, gourmet pastas, frozen desserts, as well as specialty meats, cheeses and dairy products.
He adds that the company manages to stay successful, even with only 25 employees. This includes office and warehouse staff and drivers.
“Everyone plays an important role in the day-to-day operation of the business, [and] we are truly a family business from management to all of our staff,” he says.
Giambrone has been involved in his family’s business since the age of 12. His brother, Joseph A. Giambrone, is his part¬ner in the company, and he says they are completely dedicated to the business. “My first memories of the business were when I was about 12 years old; I used to go to the public market with my father on Saturdays, to purchase from the local farmers and commission merchants.” Giambrone recalls. “The business has always provided a good living for our family. This type of business requires a certain amount of dedication, [and] it’s a 24-hour-a-day commitment. You’ve got to work, eat and sleep the business; it’s in your mind all the time. It’s definitely not an eight-hour-a-day job.”
He adds that B. Giambrone & Co.’s family legacy may extend to a fourth generation. “I have a nephew who is 18 years old and off to college. We will soon see if he decides to join the company.”
Testing the Waters
A recent trend in B. Giambrone & Co.’s market, Giambrone says, has been move¬ment towards value-added items. To stay current, “We’re constantly add¬ing new items to our list of produce and specialties,” he says.
“This kind of diversification is something our customers are looking for,” Giambrone says. “As new things hit the market, we’re the first to test the waters with them.”
Future of Food
Giambrone says that fresh produce will always play an important part in the foodservice industry. “Customers will always be looking for fresh and healthy alternatives for their menus,” he says. “This is where the need for specialized distributors will always play an important role in the marketplace.”