Touring Philly's Wholesale Produce Center

Sunday, May 27, 2012
The Delaware Valleys food is probably better than anyone realize

Unless you buy your produce direct from a farmer, chances are your fruit and vegetables came through the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market.

The new facility in Southwest Philadelphia replaces the old Food Distribution Center which had served the region since 1959.

Comparing the two is like night and day. The new market has plenty of space for tractor-trailers, room inside for forklift traffic, and state-of-the-art temperature zones that let each of the 25 wholesale merchants store each individual commodity at the ideal temperature.

For you, that means better food no matter how it gets to your table.

Supermarkets, distributors and restaurants all shop at the market, but so can you. Individuals, houses of worship, food kitchens and neighborhood cooperatives are all regular customers.

You just need to understand that everything is sold by case lot, and individuals who don't have an account with a given wholesaler are expected to pay cash. You might go in with friends and split up a case of a given commodity.

Come canning season, you might use up one or more cases of something yourself.

The merchants welcome individuals and will be glad to show you their wares.

Savvy shoppers make the rounds, visiting several merchants...maybe even all of them...to inspect produce and price-shop. Then you make your choice.

If your purchase is too cumbersome to hand-carry, the merchant may be able to help you get items to your car.

The market is open from Sunday night to Friday afternoon. Trading begins around 2:30am and that's when most corporate customers are there. By mid-morning, things quiet down and the center closes in early afternoon.

If you get hungry during your visit, Norm & Lou's Cafe is a large, friendly restaurant with counter, table and takeout service offering breakfast and lunch.

Don't be surprised if you rub elbows with a famous chef there. The cafe is run by Tom Stephanopoulos, a distant cousin of ABC's George.

The market is located at 67th and Essington Avenues, opposite Philadelphia's famous auto mall. For more information, visit the market or phone them at 215-336-3003.

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