Produce distributor moves to Jessup

A family-owned produce distributor has moved from Washington to a new base in Jessup, where its 80 employees work to package and transport more than 1 million pounds of tomatoes each week.

Pete Pappas & Sons Inc., founded in 1942 in Washington as a tomato distributor, started operations in August at its 120,000-square-foot warehouse in Jessup, said Paul S. Pappas, general manager for the firm, which is in its fourth generation of family ownership. The larger property will allow the firm to expand into new types of produce from its tomato and berries, he said.

"The location where we had been in Washington, D.C., we had outgrown it," said Pappas, a second cousin of CEO Pete Pappas, who said the company started looking for a new space about five years ago as a new generation of leaders brought new energy to the business. "We have a larger facility, therefore we can take on more and not hurt our existing business."

The firm, which gets most of its produce from domestic farmers, distributes to clients such as food service distributors and retailers from the Carolinas to New Jersey each week. It plans to add vegetables, such as green peppers and corn, as well as melons to its offerings, Pappas said. It may also look at organic produce, he said.

Its previous facility at 1401 Okie St., NE was sold to a developer, Pappas said. The firm ceased operations at the roughly 95,000-square-foot building Aug. 16, Pappas said.

Pete Pappas & Sons bought the Rappahannock Avenue property in Howard County in early 2013 for $5.25 million, according to state records. The firm invested about $3 million in renovations, adding 10,000-square-feet of offices, new drainage systems and other improvements, Pappas said. About 90 percent of the employees followed the company in the move, he said.

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