My internship at TMK Produce Company

After interviewing for many internships, I finally decided that TMK Produce Company would be the greatest learning experience for me. TMK is a wholesale produce company located in the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market (PWPM). As stated on PWPM’s website, PWPM is “the world’s largest fully-enclosed, fully-refrigerated wholesale produce terminal. The facility’s main building is one-quarter of a mile long and 686,000 square feet — bigger than 14 football fields!  Its most distinguishing operational benefit is cold-chain protection for our fresh fruits and vegetables. This assures freshness, food safety, quality and maximizes shelf life.”  For anyone interested in learning more about PWPM than I can say here, this is a good video of the operation:

 

TMK is the largest of the twenty two companies in the market, and they have grown significantly in the past six years after moving from the old produce market near the Philadelphia Eagles stadium.  TMK is open 24 hours a day, from Sunday morning to Friday afternoon, and Saturdays by appointment and they handle a wide selection of premium fruits and vegetables mostly to wholesale customers, but the public is also welcome to shop there.

Here is a photo of PWPM main entrance area and loading docks:

Here I am in a TMK office area overlooking the PWPM main hallway:

This is a photo of the main showroom area for TMK:

As stated on TMK’s website, “TMK operates out of our 2000 pallet facility located within the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market. The “Market” features roughly 25 companies that together offer an incredible selection of the finest produce available in the world. Combined sales of the “Market” is estimated to be over 1 billion dollars. Fresh produce arrives by air, truck and rail 24 hours a day, every day. The “Market” is ideally located just off interstates 95 and 76, and just minutes from the Ports of Philadelphia, PA, Camden, NJ and Wilmington, DE. Philadelphia International Airport is just a 5-minute drive.”  Considering what a unique facility the PWPM is, I am very happy for the internship opportunity I am experiencing this summer.

I applied for many internships in the Midwest region including SpartanNash, Kroger, and Aldi, but now I feel that none of these internships would teach me about the same things as TMK. Many of these other companies seemed to have a personnel management focus where managing people would be my ultimate role. Managing the kinds of people that work at TMK cannot be taught in a book, nor learned in a tutorial, but instead you need to work with these people hands on, learn their unique system of values and what managing methods motivate these workers in the most effective way. That may sound like a universal approach, but many of the employees at TMK did not graduate college, and many of them are labor workers and spend long hours moving produce throughout the warehouse. I did not know what to expect being a college student from an affluent suburban area going into this workplace filled with many less formally educated, inner city people. As I am learning, these people have a different sense of humor, different hobbies, and wake up thinking differently than most college kids that I know. In order to fit in I needed to adapt my mindset. Fortunately, this transition was rather smooth for me.  I have always had friends from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and these friendships taught me about how to have a good conversation and make it meaningful regardless of a person’s background.

My father was the one who recommended I call Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market and get inquiries about an internship. After a few tries I finally reached Christine Hofmann, Director of Marketing for PWPM. She was very pleased to hear from a college student looking for an internship job since she knew the market needed more focus on marketing. She recommended that I call the largest supplier in the market, TMK. She then put me in contact with Tom Kovacevich, President and COO of TMK. He informed me that they have never had an intern at TMK but he was also very interested in seeing if we could arrange a mutually beneficial experience where I could learn and also contribute. This just motivated me more to get in there and learn as much about their system as possible.  There is a lot for me to learn about the sustainable sourcing, supply chain management, logistics of receiving and shipping produce in such large quantities, and about the sales process to wholesale customers.

As the days go by and I learn more and more about the wholesale produce market operations, my eyes are opening up on how to manage the work and people in such a unique and under-appreciated workplace. One of the goals I already established for myself, with Tom Kovacevich’s full support, is to find ways to spread the word on what a valuable and unique facility the PWPM is not only for their customers but also for the local economy and community, and how TMK plays an important role in the market’s success.

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