The Produce Connection Inc.: 20 Years Sourcing a World of Farm-fresh Produce

The Produce Connection Inc. (PCI) delivers a select bounty of the freshest fruits and vegetables sourced from the finest lots and farms all over the country. The Florida-based company focuses on personalized service to meet the needs of an ever-evolving food service industry. PCI celebrates 20 years in business in 2013, continuing the team’s desire to be the Southeast’s cream of the crop.

Bruce Fishbein, co-founder and president of PCI, has been in the produce industry for more than 38 years. “I opened my first company in 1976,” he recalls. “In 1993 my business partner, Morris Corbitt III, and I started PCI with the ambition to have the best service around. When we sat down to establish our mission statement, we decided we wanted to be grounded in customer care first. We’ve succeeded; ask any of our clients.”

PCI now operates out of a 45,000-square-foot warehouse in Miami. The state-of-the-art site allows for exact temperature and humidity controls, specifically designed for the type of product stored within. The cold storage chain is never broken, preventing product distress. “Our ability to buy smarter and store more efficiently keeps us a step ahead and allows you to buy a fresher product at more affordable levels,” adds Fishbein. “Our large client base means that we are always moving new goods in and out of our facility with quick, direct to the facility service.”

With 26 supply trucks and approximately 84 employees, PCI is capable of reaching customers across the regions. “We head south to Homestead, Fla., north to West Palm Beach, and all the way from Fort Myers to the Keys, and many points in between,” details Fishbein. “We also fan out to Georgia, North and South Carolina, and on to California to bring the best farm-fresh produce. We also have the capability to import many products, including mangos and micro vegetable varieties.”

Superior Service

As an entrepreneur through and through, Fishbein knows what it takes to survive in a competitive market. “It really comes down to dollars and cents,” he explains. “But, to build a successful business you really need customers who trust you. Our service is so superior that people seek us out. Most of our new business is generated by word-of-mouth. I think that’s the biggest nod to our success as a company.”

As a wholesaler, importer, exporter and distributor, PCI offers diversified sales, ensuring the customer has the broadest possible selection of items. “We specialize in exotic fruits and vegetables predominantly within the food service and retail industries,” tells Fishbein. “We carry just about everything a customer could want or need, from sea beans to micro greens, cauliflower to cucumbers, avocados to mangos and everything in between. Our customers will tell you we’re not the cheapest around, but our service is exceptional.”

Introducing the Hairy Fruit

Fishbein is a longtime advocate for healthy eating habits and the national farm to school movement, which strives to incorporate fresh, local produce into lunch programs. Therefore, Fishbein is doing his part by introducing new varieties of produce to underprivileged schools. PCI receives an annual grant that allows the company to perform health education and outreach in local schools. Since 2008 PCI has been the prime vendor for the U.S. government in south Florida, including entire school lunch programs spanning from Fort Myers, Fla., to Brevard County, St. Croix and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“Students are fascinated by new produce, especially rambutan,” shares Fishbein. “It looks similar to the Asian fruit lychee and can be a bit intimidating with its red prickly appearance, but students and teachers love it. The white flesh inside is juicy and sweet and usually a big hit with children. They also tend to love star fruit for its shape and color.”

After 20 years in the industry, Fishbein says he wants to grow PCI by continuing to offer the best service and selection of products in the region. “We’re going to continue to increase sales annually, despite a rough economic situation,” he details. “For the country to pull out of the mess we’re in we’re going to need democrats and republicans alike to decided that they’re Americans first and foremost and work together.”

Truly grounded in customer care, PCI brings clients throughout the southeast the best farm-fresh produce from the U.S. and around the world. The company’s community outreach program also continues to help local children learn more about a healthy diet by engaging in unusually interesting foods. Fishbein is also proud to note that one of the company’s largest community projects hit its 30-year mark in May 2013. The Don Strock Diabetes Classic, which Fishbein began 30 years ago with Don Strock, quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, maintains PCI’s generous repute. In doing exactly what the company’s name claims, The Produce Connection Inc. continues connecting people to food for better understanding and health.

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