Packer 25 — Paul Coronella

Packer 25 — Paul Coronella

Paul Coronella shows up to buy and sell vegetables at 1:30 a.m. six days a week at Peter Condakes Co., nestled in the Chelsea, Mass.-based New England Produce Center, the hub of wholesale fresh produce in the Boston area and beyond.

But really, Coronella’s day starts before he gets out of bed shortly after 12:20 a.m., responding to orders coming in by text, e-mail and calls on his cell phone. 

And then when he leaves the company headquarters 12 or more hours later, the calls keep coming, especially in the local off-season, when shipments come from different time zones across the globe.

“My wife asks, ‘Do they think you sleep at all?’ After I get up, I’ll sit up in bed and take orders for 15 minutes. Seriously, it’s kind of funny,” Coronella said. “That’s why I sell so much stuff. I’m always there for people. If you’re a good customer, I’ll go out of my way to help you out.”

Coronella took no shortcuts to become one of the area’s best vegetable salesmen.

In 1973, he started working the market’s docks part-time, with his uncle at DiMare Bros. After high school, Coronella upped that to full-time, and he’s been in the fresh produce business at the same wholesale market ever since. That’s 45 years.

Coronella’s style of professionalism combines treating others with respect and a magnetic personality, said John Condakes, food safety and security manager. 

“He’s old school, but he has a quality that makes you want to listen to him no matter what the subject. He has a great sense of humor, and our conversations usually end with both of us laughing,” Condakes said.

Coronella is loyal to his business relationships. He’ll tell them when he thinks a better product is coming tomorrow, instead of what’s available today. He won’t switch to a new guy when his long-standing relationship is stable and fair.

“It’s a two-way street. You give and take. That’s the way it is. I do business straight up,” Coronella said. “My grandfather and father told me, what you put in, you get out. I tell that to my kids too.”

Coronella likes to be hands-on so he can see the product he’s buying and selling.

“So, if I to say to a shipper, ‘You sent me some parsley or peppers, not too good. They got trouble in them. The stuff is right by me.’ Most shippers are long-term relationships, and they won’t question me,” Coronella said. “Very rarely do we need to get an inspector in. You’ve got to have trust in this business.”

You can count on Coronella’s expert knowledge on the products and markets, said company president Peter John Condakes.

“He treats both the shippers and customers with the utmost fairness. Everybody trusts Paul,” Condakes said.

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