Preferred Freezer weathers Sandy's storm


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
October 30, 2012

As millions of Americans begin the cleanup after Sandy’s wrath, business is beginning to return to normal for some companies, and one major cold storage facility right in the thick of the storm never stopped serving its customers.

“We never shut down,” Dan DiDonato, VP of sales for Preferred Freezer Services, told SeafoodSource.

Preferred Freezer has distribution centers in 29 different locations nationwide, but its corporate headquarters is in Chatham, N.J., about a 20-minute drive west of Newark. Most of that area was staring down the barrel of the late-season hurricane that swept ashore Tuesday.

The storm brought torrential rains that caused flooding, and high winds brought down trees and utility poles, cutting off electricity for millions, including  Preferred Freezer’s seven distribution centers at and around its headquarters.

But independent generators meant the company didn’t lose any product, and they have weathered the storm so well, DiDonato said, that other distribution companies have been calling Preferred Freezer to ask if they could use their space to store product temporarily.

“They’re trying to salvage their goods,” DiDonato said.

Calls for help from other distributors only started coming in Wednesday morning, so it’s impossible to say just how much product Preferred Freezer will take on, DiDonato said, but the company has received “hundreds” of such inquiries so far, just in the first few hours of Wednesday morning.

Media reports showed flooded streets and boarded-up businesses in New Jersey, with CNN’s Ali Velshi standing on a street in Atlantic City that filled up with water around him by the hour on Tuesday, when the storm was at its height.

DiDonato said the situation was similar in Chatham, with streets flooding and standing water in some parking lots, but by Wednesday morning, major highways were reopened, and product stored at the company’s distribution centers is just waiting for transport.

“The biggest challenge is just people getting to us,” he said.

The other challenge is getting new product. As of Wednesday morning, DiDonato said New Jersey ports remained closed, and that is a primary route for his customers’ new product.

DiDonato said he doesn’t expect to lose anything, though. The ships, he said, are still out there, queued up outside the ports, waiting for permission to come in. At that point, he said, Preferred and other companies will have to be ready for major traffic.

“Once they reopen, there’ll be a slingshot,” he said.

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