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When Sandy slammed food distributor, it turned to SBDC for aid

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    Kim Guadagno, center, on a tour of Family Food Distributors today in Kearny.
    Kim Guadagno, center, on a tour of Family Food Distributors today in Kearny. - (Courtesy Harrington Communications)

    Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno visited a Kearny-based food distributor this afternoon as the first stop on a statewide tour highlighting key resources available to small businesses.

    Brenda Hopper

    In the case of Family Food Distributors, one of the most critical resources was the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers, which helped the company develop its first business plan and guided ownership in obtaining a loan to expand a few years later.

    Now, the SBDC is helping the company as it aims to recover from Hurricane Sandy, after the storm cost Family Food Distributors more than $700,000 in damage and lost inventory.

    The location of the warehouse was not considered a flood zone, so neither the company nor the building's landlord had flood insurance. Two days after the storm, the company applied for a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration. While they were approved for a low-interest loan, the amount has not yet been finalized, so the SBDC is working with the SBA to speed up the process.

    "Our suppliers have been understanding but they are running out of patience," said marketing director Andrea Castaneda.

    "We look forward to working with the Mendez family over the next few years to assist them with navigating their challenges from superstorm Sandy in partnership with the state of New Jersey and SBA, as well as assisting with the company's overall maintenance and growth needs," said Brenda Hopper, CEO of SBDC, which partners with the federal and state government and educational institutions, and receives funding from the SBA and New Jersey Business Action Center.

    Kim Guadagno

    Family Food Distributors, which was founded in 2002 in a basement, imports food products from South and Central America, and sells to supermarkets and specialty food stores in eight states. In 2012, it generated $14 million in revenue. Family Food Distributors now occupies a 50,000-square-foot warehouse in Kearny and employs more than 30 people, nine of whom are family.

    "The NJSBDC is usually the first place I call to get an answer," said Castaneda, the daughter of the company's owners. "I always say it's not a one-time stop, it's a relationship."

    Castaneda said she was looking forward to Guadagno's visit.

    "It's a rare opportunity to talk to someone like her and air your concerns," she said. "I would like to thank her for the resources available out there for small businesses."

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