Welcome to the latest edition of Local Lore!
It’s been a while since you’ve met a Native Mainer! Don’t despair, in this edition we venture into the world of purchasing. As a customer, you go online or call one of our stellar customer service team members to place your orders; ever wonder how the items in your order get to our Westbrook warehouse? Well, wonder no more: it’s time to meet our produce buyers extradordinare!!! That’s right, it’s the Donnie & Seth show!
ME: You guys have worked here for a long time! How long has it been? DONNY: Between Native Maine and AJ Kennedy’s, I’ve worked in this company for over 30 years. SETH: Let’s go with my whole life. ME: What!Your whole life! SETH: Hmmm, well it’s been probably 20 years, maybe more than 20. At least since 7th grade. ME: 7th grade! What were you doing? SETH: Well, that’s when I first started. I dated the owner’s (Joe Pizzo) youngest sister. ME: Really, that’s how you got a job? SETH: Yup that’s how I got into this whole thing.
DON: Listen, this is funny... I graduated high school in 79 the year Seth was born! It kinda works out well for both of us. He’s the younger guy with all the technology stuff and the schooling and I’m the old school guy who’s been doing the work for a long time. It works out well. The old and new. We’ve got it covered pretty good. ME: Like you’re one cohesive unit; maybe I should call you Senny or Deth?!
ME: So what did you do when you first started at Native Maine? SETH: Well, besides dating Joe’s sister, I worked in the warehouse. And I drove. Yup, and I received. And I put stuff away. Then I drove a truck then I went to daytime receiving. Then daytime shipping manager. Then night time work. Then night time manager then I started buying as well as night time manager and then just buying.
ME: Wow, that’s a lot! And how about you Donny, what did you start out as at Kennedy’s? DONNY: Pretty much the same as Seth. I started out driving then I ended up running the warehouse then doing sales on the phone…we did a lot by hand back then--No computers! We had hand written invoices--there were a lot of errors. Then I started buying some; I used to go down to the Boston market to pick up. Both Seth and I learned from the bottom up; and now, we know produce pretty good.
ME: So Donny, what happened when Native Maine and Kennedy’s merged together? DONNY: We had a lot of struggles when we combined companies. ME: Did you get in fights? DONNY: No! It was a mess though! We were trying to work together but we had one inventory with two warehouses! Inventory was so messed up. It would say you had like 87 cases of Green greenleaf but I would know I only had 21 or so. I’m Hoping Seth’s got like 60 or so. We’d be driving trucks back and forth trying to sort out the inventory; it was a mess! Me: And that ended when we moved into one warehouse? SETH: Yes thank God; that was a lot of hard work! Very very very hard! DONNY: But we got through that and here we are.
ME: So now you guys buy the majority of all the produce for Native Maine except for some local stuff. Will you tell our readers about the different ways that you buy: the market versus other ways. DONNY: Well, we get a lot of direct loads now. We contact brokers in different growing areas to find out what’s becoming available depending on what the weather is doing. ME: So what’s an example of something you buy direct? SETH: A lot of the California leaf lettuce, iceberg, romaine. We also get a lot out of New Jersey. DONNY: We’ve got a new place in Florida that we’ve been using them since the beginning of the year. They import produce like grapes, asparagus,lemons and limes.out of Central and South American and then ship it up North.
SETH: With direct loads, we get a better price and fresher product. Works out good; it cuts out buying stuff at the market which they could be sitting on for a few days. And it helps get our market truck back quicker so our afternoon deliveries go out quicker and our receivers can leave earlier. DONNY: Doesn’t always go as planned. Trucks get dinged up. Weather happens. Drivers get sick. A lot of moving pieces. SETH: And now we have to deal with the new law for electronic log books, ELBs, this makes it harder; they’ll actually shut trucks down. After eight hours, an alarm will go off and you have a certain amount of time to stop. We’ve had situations where one guy told us after he pulled in to deliver that he was almost out of hours and we had to offload his truck right away so that he didn’t get stuck here. DONNY: The ELB’s are causing price increases and there is a shortage of truck drivers in this country; nobody wants to drive because it’s hard work and you’re away from home.
ME: Okay, what do you get from Boston market? SETH: Fill in stuff, specialty stuff, and a lot of processed stuff, all the cut vegetables. DONNY: Can’t buy too much or it will go bad, especially if they are not running good. ME: What does that mean? DONNY: Poor quality like weather related, if stuff Is running good you can buy extra, then the price is down. Or the opposite, when the weather is bad or real bad, like an “Act of God”. ME: How about the mushroom supply effected by hurricanes!? What’s going on with that? SETH: Last year, a big mushroom grower in Florida was wiped out and has not reopened. Our place in Pennsylvania is trying to make up for that grower but they are having trouble keeping up with the demand.
ME: So how do you guys decide who buys what? SETH: Dennis (The procurement manager) DONNY: We both work together. SETH: We overlap a lot anyways. We just talk and say like I got a truck of potatoes and onions coming this week what do you have?
ME: Do you guys ever get on each others nerves? Don: I don’t’ think so. We’re pretty good. SETH: I think we get on other peoples nerves. ME: Well I know that that’s true! DONNY: We’re just here to do the job; sometimes it’s not easy, but we understand that. ME: I’ve never seen you guys pissed at each other. SETH: I feel like we’re annoying to other people because we do annoying things all the time. ME: I would agree with that!
DONNY: We work together, so we might as well make it good. SETH: I see him more than I see my wife. Right? ME: Is that true? SETH: Seems like it. DONNY: Over the weekend, we work together because we do orders, and we’ve got stuff going on here, crazy! SETH: Donny and I see each other 40 hours a week: my wife doesn’t get home until 9 PM by that time I’m already sleeping and I probably didn’t see her on that day and then I wake up the next day and she’s asleep. Then, I see him again and it keeps going. ME: Well jeez, maybe you should just move in together! DONNY: Well you never know! There’s always a lot going on you’ve got to try to be nice. You’ve got to try to be nice.
ME: If you could change one thing about working here what would it be? SETH: The inventory; I’d like it to be accurate. ME: Wouldn’t that be nice! DONNY: Ya, we have some troubles with that. ME: You used to be a lot more downstairs, now you sit upstairs how’s that going? Do you miss your old downstairs offices? DONNY: No, not really. Wait, I wish I didn’t sit near the bathrooms! Little smelly. And People walking by all the time. SETH: Lots of Lysol smells….I wish I could change that everything was good all time. ME: Awwwww. SETH: I mean quality good all the time. And that was quality was never an issue.
ME: What do you like most about your job? Besides each other! SETH: Well, we like working next to each other; I can touch him from my seat! ME: Okay, Silly. Well if you guys didn’t get along it would be awful spending so much time with each other. DONNY: Seriously we both like the action and being busy. There’s something going on all the time: something new everyday. The market changes, trucking changes, prices change. We do a lot of researching and trying to get ahead. ME: It takes a lot more brain power than you would think. It’s not just plugging in numbers and sending orders. SETH: Quality, pricing, buying right, nothing is too good to be true!
ME: What’s one thing that nobody knows about you? DONNY: I was once a Ninja. SETH: I was born in Compton. ME: You mean LA? SETH: Sure! DONNY: Seriously, I used to work for Georgia Pacific; drove a skidder for them. Seth: Not everybody knows that my kid brought a beer to school. ME: Everybody knows that!
ME: Okay should we close by talking about the spoon on the file cabinet? DONNY: There was a whole set--plate, cup, spoon, napkin that someone left there. SETH: Honest to God somebody was leaving a spoon and dishes on the file cabinet I put them in the way and then there’ll be another spoon. me: And you blamed Donny! SETH: We still don’t know who put the freaking spoon on the file cabinet! DONNY: We like to have a good time. ME: Do you miss being with the guys downstairs? DONNY: Nno too high maintenance! SETH: It was like having 10 wives!
ME: Do you think you’ll work at Native Maine for the rest of your career? Seth: Probably. Well I don’t know; but, I’ve got no where else to go.
Coming right up: Halloween, the spookiest and best holiday of them all! Let’s dive right in to the origins of fright night with some trivia:
Halloween’s origins come from a Celtic festival for the dead called Samhain or “summer’s end”. Samhain marked the end of the harvest season as well as the arrival of the long, dark days of winter.
Celts believed the ghosts of the dead roamed Earth on this holiday; people would dress in costumes, carve lanterns out of turnips and potatoes and leave “treats” out on their front doors to appease the roaming spirits.
The ancient traditions associated with Samhain were brought to America by 19th century Irish immigrants. America’s native, much larger pumpkins soon replaced potatoes and turnips as jack o’lantern’s.
In some American towns, Halloween was originally referred to as “Cabbage Night.” (Yes, Cabbage Night! I do not make this stuff up!) Originally, this was a Scottish fortune-telling game where girls used cabbage stumps to predict information about their future husbands. In some U.S. towns, teens skipped the fortune-telling and simply went around throwing cabbage, corn, and other rotten vegetables at their neighbors’ houses.
The jack-o’-lantern comes from an old Celtic tale about a man named Stingy Jack. According to folklore, Stingy Jack was out getting sloshed with the Devil when Jack convinced his drinking partner to turn himself into a coin to pay for the drinks without spending money. Jack then put the Devil, shaped like a coin, into his pocket, which also contained a silver cross that kept the Devil from transforming back. Jack promised to free the Devil as long as the Devil wouldn’t bother him for a year, and if he died, the Devil could never claim his soul. Jack tricked the Devil again later, getting him to pick a piece of fruit out of a tree and then carving a cross into the bark when the Devil was in the branches. This trick bought Jack another 10 years of devil-free living. When Jack finally died, God decided he wasn’t fit for heaven, but the Devil had promised never to claim his soul for hell. So Jack was sent off to roam Earth with only a burning coal for light. He put the coal into a turnip as a lantern, and Stingy Jack became “Jack of the Lantern” or “Jack o’ Lantern.”
So watch out for Stingy Jack when you’re out there trick-or-treating this week, folks.
And have a Happy Halloween!
At Native Maine Produce & Specialty Foods we're working hard to connect our customers with the freshest, quality produce & specialty products available. We believe in supporting New England's vibrant and diverse food system by providing locally grown & processed food items alongside some of the world’s best specialty foods sourced from around the globe.
As one of New England’s leading produce wholesale distributors with 3000+ quality items in stock, our 2000+ New England customers have access to local, regional & hard to find specialty foods delivered frequently at very competitive prices. We are your neighbors; we are the Local You Know.