Sirna & Sons

Issue 187


Nothing less than fresh

Fourth-generation family-run wholesale distributor, Sirna & Sons, continues to thrive as it provides customers with premium produce at competitive prices

For over 80 years, Sirna & Sons has brought the finest local vegetables and dairy products to restaurateurs and business owners across Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The family owned and operated business has strong ties to its local community, and a widespread reputation for freshness. As it continues to deliver the very best service and produce, Sirna & Sons welcomes its fourth generation into the business, and looks forward to continued organic growth.

“Sirna & Sons Produce is a family-owned wholesale foodservice distributor. While our largest emphasis is on produce, we also have extensive lines of dairy and specialty products that we sell to our customers. We started out as a small, one aisle grocery store in Chicago, IL, but when the great depression hit, we relocated to Cleveland, OH, in order to find more work opportunities.

“Over the course of the next 80 years, we evolved through the retail sector into the wholesale industry, which we began servicing in 1989. In 2019, we added over 100,000 square feet of warehouse space to our headquarters in Ravenna, OH, to accommodate growing sales. The business is currently run by third-generation family members, Vince Sirna, Serena Sirna Wagner, and myself. Fourth-generation family members Anthony Sirna and Allie Sirna Worley also work in the company, joining in 2013 and 2019, respectively,” begins President, Tom Sirna.

Complete service
Throughout the course of its long history, Sirna & Sons has developed a dedicated network of farmers and suppliers, as Tom reveals: “Over 84 years in the industry, we have established numerous longstanding relationships with growers, across the US and internationally. In addition to this, we work with several large purchasing groups that have participation from over 50 other foodservice distributors, which provides group buying power and negotiated pricing. In return, we can pass these savings down to our valued customers.

“Whilst we do buy most of our products through growers across the US, we take advantage of local produce whenever possible. Being based in Ohio, we are fortunate to have plenty of excellent local vendors available to us between the months of May and September. Supporting local farmers helps local economies thrive, which is really important to us.

“In addition to the monetary value of supporting our surrounding communities, the quality and pricing of local products can’t be beaten when they are in season. There is nothing like Ohio sweetcorn in July, or berries in the height of summer. We have found many of our customers also actively search for these opportunities in the local season, in order to provide their consumers with the same quality and freshness. It makes us feel very proud when we walk by a local restaurant and see some of our items on their seasonal menus,” continues Tom.

Providing a complete service has always been important to Sirna & Sons – that’s why the company founded Christine’s Cuts, a specialist vegetable processing operation, in 2016. “We opened Christine’s Cuts in order to fulfil the large demand for specialty cut fruits and vegetables. We have found success in making specific cuts that chefs in our market can’t get from anywhere else. Over time, we have also seen the demand for these items increase due to the most recent labor shortage – we make it easier on our customer’s back-of-house operations by taking the processing out of their day-to-day responsibilities. We operate six days a week and process daily to ensure optimal freshness on each product line.

“Technology continues to be a huge driver in our workspace – while you will never fully eliminate the need for manual labor in our industry, we continue to look for ways to improve our infrastructure with technology-backed solutions, ultimately increasing efficiency while maintaining the highest possible level of quality and service,” Tom explains.

Alongside its fruit and vegetable offering, Sirna & Sons also supplies a range of dairy products, baked goods, herbs, spices and purees to customers in the hospitality sector. The company maintains partnerships with restaurants, hotels and even schools all across Ohio, Central Pennsylvania and Northern West Virginia through a strong focus on customer support. As Tom confirms: “We were founded on the ability to provide a quality service, and to this day that is what we pride ourselves on the most.

“Being a family-owned company, it is our foundational belief that the customer is always right. We will do whatever we can to make sure they are taken care of the way they expect to be, every single day, and if we don’t, we will always find a way to make it right.”

Core values
These strong connections, forged by Sirna & Sons’ dedicated team, helped the company survive the challenges of a global pandemic. As Tom discusses: “Covid-19 pushed our boundaries and caused us to take a hard look at our operations. It meant that we had to make necessary changes, which we’d never considered before.

“Thankfully, we were quick on our feet and implemented a curbside grocery pickup program, which helped sell a lot of our inventory to local communities and also allowed us to help those in need. Additionally, we participated in the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program, where we provided over 445,668 food boxes to food insecure communities. These two projects alone helped to stabilize our business until restaurants, bars, and other wholesale customers were able to reopen.

“We have learned that you can never truly plan for bumps that may be down the road. Nobody would have ever expected our business to drop 75 percent due to a virus, but it happened, and we have learned from it and ultimately became stronger because of it.”

Despite the adversity Sirna & Sons has faced in recent years, it has always remained dedicated to its core values of service, quality and sustainability. As Tom enthuses: “Environmental consciousness and social responsibility are important parts of our culture. Sirna & Sons Produce recognizes that businesses can have a negative impact on the environment and the importance of reducing our carbon footprint.

“In 2019, when we did our major expansion to the Ravenna warehouse, we incorporated a 453-kW solar system, which provides close to 35 percent of our annual electricity. The use of solar helps to reduce consumption of fossil fuels by lowering greenhouse gases and pollution, whilst also reducing our operating costs. All the lighting throughout our new warehouse space is LED, operating on motion sensors to conserve energy and be most efficient.

“Additionally, our building siding is a blend of real maple and TruGrain composite siding; this material is comprised of rice husks, agricultural by-product and synthetic plastics. TruGrain is 100 percent recyclable, with a longer life span than regular wood. Our refrigeration needs are accomplished through eco-friendly gas production, and we also use a carboard baler to recycle cardboard and paper within each facility, all of which helps reduce our carbon emissions. We have also invested in a new fleet of trucks that will be operational within the next year – it will incorporate some electric vehicles, a direction we hope to continue to take in the future,” reveals Tom.

Today, Sirna & Sons continues to thrive. With an ever-growing range of local specialties, dedicated grower base, and strong, family-led community, the company looks forward to a bright future. As Tom concludes: “Our plans for the future are all about consistency, stability, and continual growth. There are a lot of factors changing within the industry right now, and our goal is to remain a steady partner to current and prospective customers.

“In the long-term, our end goal will always be expansion. In the next three to five years, we are aiming for continued double digit growth year over year, while meeting the demands of an ever-changing industry.”
www.sirnaandsonsproduce.com


Sirna & Sons