Supermarket Crowded? No Delivery Times Free? Use Restaurant Distributors for Groceries

Closing restaurants left one company with about $ 800,000 worth of products that would've spoiled and gone to waste — that's when he got the idea for a new business model

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With grocery delivery services getting overwhelmed, unable to meet the demand from customers who themselves struggle to find available delivery windows, a new option for grocery shoppers has surfaced.

When the tri-state effectively shutdown nearly a month ago, food distributors lost a massive portion of their clientele: restaurants.

"I went from about 500 customers to basically between five and 15," said Mike Longo, who runs Krystal Produce in the Nassau County village of Westbury. "And it just couldn't pay the bills."

Closing the restaurants left Longo's company with about $800,000 worth of products that would've spoiled and gone to waste. That's when he got the idea for a new business model.

He decided to start selling directly to consumers, offering fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products — all items that have not been easy to purchase without leaving one's home. Since then it's been all hands on deck, with Longo's family pitching in to help with the new demands, including his sons who help him pack and move boxes.

It's quite the change in fortune from the bad news they received when the pandemic hit.

"I had to let 70 employees go," Longo said, but thankfully due to the new business direction, he's been able to bring them all back — and then some.

"Now I'm looking for more than that, basically everyone's been back and I need more people to continue," he said.

Longo is not alone in his business thinking: New York City-based food distributor Baldor also sells to the public now, after they lost 80 percent of their business overnight.

"We knew that we could put that food and our employees to good use, so we said hey, what do we have to lose, let's go for it," said Ben Walker of Baldor Specialty Food.

Instead of selling exclusively to restaurants and schools, they have kept their business afloat and allowed them to keep workers on the payroll.

Both companies now offer home delivery options for shoppers on their websites.

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