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JT Guida, long-time leader of Pexco Produce Sales, which operates out of Pompano Beach, FL in the Edward L. Myrick State Farmers Market, and a facility in Plant City, FL, is stepping aside as the CEO of the company. Michael Yates is becoming the main director of the company.

The rest of the leadership team includes Mike Stanley as general manager of the Pompano operation and Clinton Stanley handling quality control duties. In Plant City, Bill Nagle serves as general manager.

It’s a team that Guida is proud of and knows will continue the legacy of the 50-plus-year company, a grower, shipper and consolidator of domestic and international produce.

The one secret he’s learned in all his years in the produce industry is that quality is always the most important thing.

“You can always negotiate the price, but you can never negotiate quality,” Guida said. 

The company increased its retail business as a result of the pandemic, but saw other important segments fall considerably.

“It’s been a strange year. Business was good, but I wouldn’t say it was great,” Guida said. “We

were able to survive. Sales were approximately the same, maybe a couple million more, but it was good, not great by any means.”

The biggest trend he’s noticed in recent years — and the pandemic only made it more popular — was in value-added products.

“For value-added items, we do a lot of corn and some bagging with peppers and cucumbers,” Guida said. “Because of the pandemic, a lot of people were buying over the internet and this made it a lot more convenient for pickups and distribution on the retail end; it was just easier than ordering through bulk. It only seemed to pick up more and more as the months went on.”

Not that the Pexco doesn’t do a lot of bulk as well. In fact, Guida said that a lot of his customers still put produce out on the shelves in the bulk way — especially the Southern vegetables like cucumber, eggplant, squash and green beans.

It was back in 1969 when Guida became an early proponent of consolidation, making things easier for people to get their produce from its Pompano location.

“It’s always been our particular way of doing business — bringing product to one area and having trucks pick up 75-80 percent of what they need,” he said. “That’s something that has become a bigger trend. A lot of farmers who grow one item are now bringing in other items to consolidate and go with their one main item.”

In his opinion, Pexco has mastered that concept, and Guida believes that when talk in the produce industry turns to who the best in consolidations are, Pexco should be at the top.

In other news around the company, Pexco recently started handling the sales for Parkesdale Farms, which is one on the largest fresh pickle farms in the southeast.  

As Pexco plans its strategy for the rest of 2021, Guida said the company wants to just continue adding in the value-added space.

“That business just gets bigger and bigger every month, and we are spending a massive amount of money on equipment to help expedite and fill orders that is being demanded by our customers to supply,” he said. “Hopefully, that trend will go for years to come.”