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With a new focus on quality and an eye toward future technology, B.T. Produce is poised for the challenges of the next century, according to David Taubenfeld, who owns the company along with his partners.

The Hunts Point wholesale house offers a full-line of fresh fruits and vegetables, but specializes in Asian pears, persimmons and mangoes.

"This has been our best winter ever," Taubenfeld said. "We have been busier than ever and more efficient than ever."

He said the mild weather had a lot to do with their favorable business, but the company has upgraded its line of products, which he feels is the most important reason why sales have increased.

"We did a major upgrade in our presentation and in our choice of products that weíre handling. Weíre handling a much better package; weíre looking for the best and biggest produce with the best quality. Weíre passing on the good stuff to our customers and they are reacting very well. We are no longer catering to a lower-end customer," he said.

While the company kept most of their same suppliers, they have picked up some new sources for product. "Our selection from these suppliers has changed as far as what we request. Instead of looking for what is cheap, we are looking for what is good."

The idea of quality playing a higher role in purchasing is a completely new focus for B.T. Produce, according to Taubenfeld, who said, " Itís really having a great effect. Our entire focus has been a concentrated effort toward presentation. Itís one thing if you have a huge selection of fruits and vegetables, which we have, but the key has been to present then in a whole new light. We have all new displays: bigger, cleaner, brighter displays."

"The trend weíre following, which is the reason for the entire product upgrade, is that customers want good stuff. We finally woke up and realized it, and thatís why we have been busier than ever."

Taubenfeld also is excited about his operationís commitment to keeping abreast with computer technology. He said they said they have gained some new suppliers from the Internet.

Also, the company has created a web site,, which is designed to provide new suppliers with information about the company. Eventually, Taubenfeld believes the majority of buying and selling of produce will take place via computers.

"We know that in the future our customers are going to end up shopping on (the internet). Future shoppers from anywhere are going to want to buy produce on-line. Itís not even a speculation, itís a fact. Weíre just preparing ourselves for the future and trying to get a foothold," he commented. "Iíve already made connections with people from my web site that have made us money. It has already justified itself."

Taubenfeld said the other advantage to having a web site is that it is currently more of a "showcase so our present suppliers can learn what they can sell to us and a way for future suppliers to consider whether or not they want to send things to us. They can learn about what kind of a company we are," he said." It is a professional way of presenting yourself."

David Taubenfeld of B.T. Produce on the Hunts Point market

The backbone of B.T. Produceís business is based on Chinese trade in Chinatown, according to the company owner, who noted: "Thatís where we built our business because we specialize in Asian pears and Persimmons and those are their best items. Now weíre building up a very good Korean trade with Korean retailers because we started to carry items they want."

The wholesaler also deals with chain stores and other wholesalers.

With the upgraded quality of their produce, Taubenfeld noted that the company has attracted new customers, which, in turn has allowed the company better buying power.

"We already had a lot of good customers, but now we are attracting a whole new crowd in addition to them. With all the new customers coming in, we are able to handle a wider variety of products because weíre availing ourselves to an entirely new kind of customer who is looking for specialties and interesting produce from different parts of the world with different sizes and different ways of packaging. Thatís really where the business is going, to the specialty end," he said.

While the demand end of the business has taken a turn for the best, Taubenfeld said he hasnít had any real problems on the supply end, although weather in Chile caused shortages there.

Taubenfeld said the crop was off by 45 percent as of the first week of March. " Supplies have been tight and prices were higher. Weíve had lots of frustrated customers. Quality has been fine though," he said.

While the Taubenfelds have been in the produce business for more than 50 years, B.T. Produce has been in operation for eight years. They employ 30 people and occupy six units at the Hunts Point market.

"We have a lot of space here, we have a great spot. Weíre the first building you hit when you enter the market. Itís been a great winter and itís going to lead into a great spring," Taubenfeld said. " I expect this spring to be one of the best ever for us."

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