Peirone Produce Co. Inc.
For nearly 70 years, Peirone Produce Co. Inc. (Peirone) has delivered top-notch quality, fresh produce to retail grocery stores from its home in Spokane, Wash., to the Canadian border, northern Idaho to western Montana and northeast Oregon. “We offer retailers a full line of wholesale produce, as well as supplemental items, such as croutons, trail mix, dressings and juices,” says Dale Arneson, general manager of Peirone.
Small shop to regional leader
Since Peirone opened its doors as a small family-owned business in 1945, the company has grown by leaps and bounds, adding a larger facility and increasing capabilities and efficiency through state-of-the-art produce handling technology. “Peirone was founded by Joe Peirone in 1945,” recounts Arneson. “He was originally a trucker who got into the produce business with some of his family members.”
Arneson explains that Peirone went through several locations and sold the company to United Retail Merchants (URM) in 1986. “Peirone is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of URM stores,” he continues. “Some of the Peirone family relatives continued to work for the company for many years, but have since retired.”
Arneson has been a proud Peirone member for more than 24 years. “I started out as a produce merchandiser doing resets and training,” he details. “We service independent retailers, some of which have their own produce merchandisers in-house, but others are one or two store operations that need help training.”
A day in the life at Peirone
After working on the merchandising end, Arneson stepped into a buyer role, followed by director of sales and purchasing, which eventually led to his promotion as general manager. “We now have 85 employees,” notes Arneson. “Peirone serves a 250-mile radius of our home headquarters in Spokane.”
Business starts early at Peirone; 5 a.m. to be exact, and runs steadily until midnight every day. “Mornings are fairly quiet,” says Arneson. “We get the coolers and slots ready for the pick cycle and our salesmen start to hit the road, visiting customers. At about 1 p.m. the salesmen really start taking orders in earnest and all orders are in by 4:30 p.m. From there, the bulk of our picking crew comes in for the 4 p.m. to midnight shift.”
Room for improvement and new products
Peirone has made significant improvements to its operation and facility since 2009, investing in a new and improved space, as well as technology. “In October 2009, we upgraded to Produce Pro, a computer system that handles our entire sales, buying, transportation and warehousing inventory,” says Arneson. “It’s made a huge difference in our efficiency having this data at our fingertips.”
Shortly after, in March 2010, Peirone moved into a brand new 77,000-square-foot facility, which was a huge upgrade from the 29,000-square-foot building dating back to 1964. “It was amazing how quickly we filled the extra space,” recalls Arneson. “The new facility is set up so we’re unloading directly into the coolers.”
From there, produce is selected and loaded into a Peirone truck. “We run our own fleet,” says Arneson. “We have eight long-haul trucks bringing in produce and 13 delivery semis plus four bobtails. Most delivery routes are shipped via semi. As soon as long-haul trucks are unloaded we send them southbound again.”
Peirone’s new facility allows the company to stock more products, something that Arneson says customers demand. “Retailers want something to differentiate them from the next guy down the street,” he explains. “It’s about trying to find the next hot-ticket item, from a designer tangerine to a new variety of apple.”
Arneson adds Peirone has been diving into the organics market now more than ever. “The organic category is still growing, with many newly added items,” he notes. “We used to just sell organic salads, but now almost everything we sell conventional we also sell organic, because prices are more reasonable.”
There’s also been a major movement in healthier versions of prepackaged foods and Peirone is jumping on the bandwagon. “We’re doing more ready-pack bistro bowls and protein-added salads,” adds Arneson. “Product lines have broadened in recent years. We’re just trying to keep up on new stock keeping units to keep up with our customers’ needs and offer a wide selection.”
Satisfied customers are the key to any successful business, but even more so in Peirone’s case. “We grow as our retailers grow,” explains Arneson. “There’s a store opening in Montana in June and we’re looking forward to serving the new location.”
While Peirone Produce Co. Inc. has grown into a produce powerhouse, the same commitment remains to quality, selection, service and efficiency to support retail customers.