AC Produce continues to thrive in Springfield’s South End

MassLive, February 9, 2019 by Elizabeth Román | eroman@repub.com

SPRINGFIELD — In 1998, Antonio Calabrese opened a small business on Main Street providing fresh produce to area restaurants. More than 20 years later, AC Produce has become a staple in the city’s South End and has expanded to include a catering business and AC’s Main Street Market, a deli and market that are both thriving.

“Our customer base is very loyal. It’s all word of mouth. People like the food and they tell their friends and family. I’m very grateful for that,” Calabrese said.

The deli, which opened in 2007, got so busy a few years ago that Calabrese needed more room. He purchased and demolished a three-family-house at 16 Rutledge Ave., adjacent to his property. Last year he turned the space into an additional parking lot for his delivery trucks and customers.

“We get very busy, especially around lunchtime every day, and the extra parking has made a big difference. I have a lot of customers coming in from the city, but also from Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Wilbraham, and I didn’t want people to have to search for parking,” he said.

MGM Springfield opened just down the street from AC Produce last summer. Calabrese has been a supporter of the project and his business is now an approved produce supplier for the resort casino, delivering fresh fruits and vegetables daily. He said he saw a slight increase in customers during construction and it has not slowed down.

“People thought having MGM here would affect us in a negative way, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen because of the way it’s set up. Traffic has not been an issue and you don’t even really notice it’s there,” he said. “People thought it would affect the restaurant business, but we distribute to pretty much all the restaurants in Springfield and our sales in distribution of produce have remained the same. I don’t think it’s affected them at all.”

Calabrese has 19 employees and the business distributes to restaurants across the state.

“We deliver from here to Bernardston and have three drivers on the road at all times,” he said. “The deli is always busy and the business is going great.”

He has big plans for 2019.

“My primary goal is to upgrade the facade of the building,” he said. This will include new brick work, window replacements, a new sign and new doors.

“If you have never been in here you might just drive by because you wouldn’t know what it is,” he said. “The goal is for people to notice it when they drive by.”

Calabrese put the project out to bid in 2018, but the estimates were too high, he said.

“I’m determined to make it happen this year,” he said.

As for the success of the business these past 20 years, Calabrese credits great employees, loyal customers and quality products.

“The staff here is great. They are warm and welcoming and our customers feel good coming here,” he said. “I am also very particular with the products that we distribute. I am on every truck making sure the produce is being loaded properly and we will continue our track record for customer service and quality.”

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