Feeding The Troops

Faraway conflict touches Westbury firm

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The war in Ukraine, seemingly so far away, has had implications as close as the gas pump—and at a modest Westbury warehouse.

Drive past All Round Foods on Railroad Avenue and occasionally you’re bound to see trucks affiliated with the U.S. armed services’ Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) loading containers bound for the huge ships plying the global trade. They will carry all manner of frozen bakery products to troops stationed on NATO’s frontline countries, such as Poland, as the military alliance seeks to check Russian aggression.

Glen Wolther of Jericho has owned the frozen foods distribution firm since 1994.
After Russia invaded its fellow Slavic neighbor in February, he told the Illustrated News, the quantity of distribution overseas immediately quickened.

“Before Ukraine, we were shipping maybe one two three containers a week. Now we’re shipping six to nine containers per week,” he said earlier this year (the pace has since slowed of late). “That’s why County Executive Blakeman came to the warehouse.”
The executive took a tour of the facility earlier this year.

Some of the product is going to the NATO base in Poland, he said, which he supplied with numerous containers of brownies, croissants and Kaiser rolls.

Asked how he came to supply the military with bakery products, Wolther said it took a long time, mentioning a time frame of seven to 10 years. It involved calling upon distributors affiliated with the DLA and finally flying overseas and meeting with people who could make such decisions.

“Did you have to hire more people or expand your facilities to meet this increased demand?” he was asked.

“No, we just have to turn over our inventory faster [in our] cold storage warehouse,” he replied.

All Round Foods’ products, which are baked elsewhere and frozen at the warehouse, wind up in places as diverse as Navy ships or an American nuclear base in Turkey.

“I serviced Ramstein Air Force Base, which had 55,000 people when I was there a few years ago. They could have 100,000 there now,” Wolther said,
He related that he got a call from an Italy-based distributor at the end of February. It was about 8 a.m. New York time.

“‘Will you be able to supply us with the basics?’ he asked me. I supply white bread, wheat bread, hamburger rolls, hot dog rolls and bagels,” Wolther recalled. “I said yes. I said I’m concerned about what’s going on with the containers because there were [supply chain] problems back in February and he said, ‘Yes, we’re aware of it, we’re talking to the [DLA].’ And then he proceeded to say, ‘I’ve got to hang up. I have to go into a meeting with a brigadier general. You can expect huge orders.’ I wasn’t the only supplier he was calling, It’s split up among many different distributors depending on where you are in the world and who won the contracts to service the military.”

He added, “The next day I got six container loads from my distributor where normally I would get one to two.”

All Round Foods has an extensive non-military business, and Wolther stated, “I deliver to frozen food distributors around the country or in Canada. Companies like IHOP are using some of my products. Donatos Pizza. Colleges and universities like the University of Michigan, NYU and Columbia have used my product.”

“And you have enough space at your warehouse to satisfy the demand?” he was asked.

“Yes, I have to turn over my inventory [fast],” he replied. “So the stuff comes in, I freeze it and hopefully within a week the [DLA] arranges to pick it up and get it out of here.”
He emphasized, “I have a small business. But all I know is my business has gone up. There is a food distributor who services the NATO base in Poland. I wasn’t selling them anything before, but since war broke out, I [now do].”

Wolther started the business in 1994. His father Nelson built the warehouse and surrounding buildings and “I decided in 2007 to buy my father’s building back—he had sold it in 1989 and it changed hands three or four times. I was doing this business before I bought the building, leasing a third party warehouse. My father’s building was up for sale, so I bought it.”

All Round Foods lies in a formerly zoned industrial area of the village that has been changed to a mixed-use zoning to encourage transit-oriented development. Two apartment buildings are rising on either side of the warehouse. Wolther appeared before the board of trustees in April to thank the village for allowing him to stay in business and hoping village officials would be sensitive to his need for an uncluttered street in front of his warehouse to facilitate the movement of distribution trucks.

He did not want to explain to the DLA that a food order was late to port because a construction or another illegally parked truck blocked a delivery, he stated.

“It’s important to me and my company,” he told the assembled. “Yes, I’m in business, but I take [this] very seriously. So I hope you appreciate what we’re doing, and support me, and make sure I can feed the troops who keep us safe,”

Wolther admitted to the Illustrated News that he had been a beneficiary of the Ukrainian conflict, and it was “a strange way to make a living.”

“I’ve been a very reliable source for the US military and that’s what they’re most concerned about, getting product,” he concluded.

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