VINELAND — One perk of his job is traveling around the world in search of good produce and fine wine, but it isn’t as glamorous as it sounds, said Ron Dandrea of Vineland, one of the third generation of owners of Dandrea Produce and Dandrea Wines.
“We follow the sun,” Dandrea said. “Wherever the product is being grown around the world is where we import from.”
And importing often means traveling — to Mexico and Morocco, Spain and South Africa, Chile and Honduras, Dandrea said. But in the summer, local produce is the big seller.
Brother Frank Dandrea, of Longport, said their grandfather moved from New York, started a farm in the Landisville section of Buena, and began expanding his markets. The business was formed in 1917.
The company began a serious expansion about 25 years ago, and now carries about 200 lines of produce from all over the world, Ron Dandrea said. It is sold in most major supermarket chains.
Large photographs of farms and their produce adorn the walls of the office, reminding workers and visitors of the nature of the business. On a recent summer day, the cool warehouse was full of South African oranges being bagged for sale.
A Chilean grape and cherry grower had been asking the company for years to carry their wine, Ron Dandrea said. After learning about some good wineries, they decided about a year and a half ago to start distributing it.
Chilean wines are sold under the Folatre label, Dandrea said. Spanish wines are sold under the Actum and Nodus labels.
The idea is to sell a high-end wine at an affordable price, Dandrea said. All except the Nodus wines retail for less than $10 a bottle. For the time being, the wines are available only in southern states, but he hopes they will be for sale in New Jersey by Thanksgiving.
The wines won four medals at the San Francisco International Wine Competition in July, Dandrea said.
But it takes a lot of work to get the bottles into stores, he said. The company had to apply for permits in several states, get it into stores and at eye-level on the shelves so people will see it. They also had to build a separate area at their Vineland facility to store and distribute the wine, and a different set of employees to work with it.
“We don’t want to conquer the world,” Dandrea said. “We want to handle six or seven varietals and make sure it’s a good wine for a good price.”
The family is also known in the area for sponsoring the St. Padre Pio shrine on Route 40 in the Landisville section of Buena.
Dandrea said his parents went to Italy to buy chestnuts, visited Padre Pio’s hometown and learned about the saint’s powers of healing.
“It hit my mother to the point where she became obsessed,” Dandrea said. “She’s on a mission.”
The Dandrea family donated the land for the shrine, and others provided the materials and labor to build it, he said.
The family believes in taking care of its employees, some of whom have been with them for more than 20 years, Dandrea said.
Employees are free to use an exercise room containing modern cardio and weightlifting equipment, Dandrea said. Once the offices relocate to a larger room, a cook will come in to make healthful lunches for the workers in the kitchen.
And although most of the fourth generation of Dandreas is still young, they are already interested in joining the family business. Frank Dandrea said his daughter, Jana, is starting to work there.
“All the kids want to come into this business,” Ron Dandrea said. “We’ll be OK for the next generation.”
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