Palmer's Foodservice

A Day In the Life of a New York foodservice distributor

We continue our Day in the Life journey with a look at food distribution. Ever wonder how beef gets from the ranch to your favorite restaurant or grocery store? Meet Mary Jo …

Before the sun comes up, before the bustle of a young family fills her home, Mary Jo Staertow is tackling the day’s challenges.

Her first task? Check messages — just to be sure an emergency didn’t pop up since she last glanced at her home office computer the night before.

In her world, running out of coconut cream pie can create the same sense of urgency that a “Cows are out!” call might have to a farmer or rancher.

Staertow works in sales for Palmer Food Services, a broadline foodservice distributor based in Rochester, N.Y. They stock 8,000 items that range from protein and vegetables to cleaning products and napkins.

Palmer's Foodservice

Every day breaks the mold, yet it blends together to follow the same “typical” pattern. Early this morning, Staertow’s iPhone reveals nothing that can’t wait.

After she prepares herself for a day on the go, she seamlessly transitions into her second full-time job: wife and mother. Staertow and her husband get their 6- and 9-year-olds ready for school. As they bound out the door to meet the bus, Staertow is right behind them, now fully engaged in her role, not so much as saleswoman but as a solutions provider.

She first points her car towards the company’s warehouse 35 miles from her home, where she’ll pick up some fryer oil and ice cream for delivery to customers who unexpectedly ran out. Staertow may cover 250 to 300 miles in a day, stopping for 20 to 40 minutes at a time to visit with loyal customers before making a “prospect” call or two.

“The bucket’s always leaking, so to speak, so you always have to be feeling the top end of that,” she says. “We’re always keeping our eyes and ears open and continuing to pursue new business.”

But it’s not just about ringing in the sales. The daughter of Italian immigrants, Staertow sees how intertwined food and family are. The love of it all is what called her to the kitchen during the first part of her career as a chef manager. That background helps her gauge customers’ needs and it’s why she feels it is her calling, not just her job, to respond.

Palmer Food Services

The morning starts out with regular rounds: a mom-and-pop shop known for burgers and fries, a new nostalgic-style ice cream shop serving a classic Philly cheese steak, and a high-end steakhouse that recently reopened with a new chef.

“We’re really excited about our opportunities with them,” Staertow says. She leaves — confident the information she shared about putting additional beef items on the menu sat well with the chef. They discussed value cuts and adding steak sandwiches or salads as lunch items. That visit took more than an hour, though, which means Staertow will not be enjoying one of those sit-down meals she helps create.

This is a regular occurrence, so she taps into her stash: an apple, banana and nuts eaten in the car so she can remain ‘on the go’.

Tired after a morning in Mary Jo’s shoes? See what the afternoon is like when we
check back in tomorrow. Read part 2, here.


Published by

Jennifer Kiko

Jennifer lives on a rural route with her husband, kids, horses, cows and faithful Labs, Cash and Carter. She's an aspiring foodie and enjoys making good food for great friends. She lives next door to a winery, plays the piano, and admits to growing too many tomatoes.