A New Haven family business is starting a bold new venture — in Warwick, R.I.
Due to his business’s success, Statewide Meat and Poultry owner Stephen Falcigno was approached one year ago by the food conglomerate Sysco Foods to head up its regional meat distributer, Buckhead Beef. Falcigno is taking the offer. His company, which caters to white-tablecloth restaurants and country clubs across the state, will move its headquarters to a state-of-the-art meat-cutting facility in Warwick, R.I., next month. The company plans to continue serving its current customers, as well as expand business to all of New England and New York, but for at least one customer, loyalty ends at the state line.
Falcigno said it was not an easy decision.
“Though we aren’t so happy to leave New Haven, it is a positive thing for me and a positive thing for Statewide,” Falcigno said. “We’re hoping that the transition is very seamless and if anything that the customers will see rising quality.”
The new multimillion-dollar facility in Warwick will be equipped with novel features including an immediate Cryovac wrapping system and air filtration in each room, to ensure freshness and proper inspection of the meat produced.
These quality control measures allow Sysco to guarantee a 21-day shelf life for each cut, almost twice what Statewide currently guarantees to customers.
As president of a larger operation, Falcigno expects his role will shift from day-to-day manager to financial overseer, a position unfamiliar to him. Since 1982, when he took over his father’s business at age 22, Falcigno built the company on the strength of personal relationships with his customers.
Jean-Pierre Villermet, chef and owner of Union League Café, said he has worked with Statewide since the late ’70s, when Falcigno’s father still ran the business. The son’s hands-on involvement in day-to-day affairs kept Villermet loyal to the Statewide product.
“I have Steve’s home phone number so that I can call him on weekends in case I need a special order,” Villermet added.
Still, Villermet said he prefers to continue working with local businesses rather than keep his allegiance to Statewide once it crosses the Connecticut border.
“I’m on the market for a new vendor,” he said.
Falcigno expressed regret at leaving his city behind, saying that many businesses in New Haven find it difficult to expand and create new jobs.
His company currently employs about 30 people locally, some of whom will work at the Rhode Island facility. Falcigno said he is looking to expand his workforce under the new Buckhead Beef umbrella.
“I think that the city can do a better job of helping small businesses grow, through programs to hire people or through tax incentives,” he said. “In New Haven … you need the resources to stay competitive.”
The city government formed the Economic Development Corporation three-and-a-half years ago to work on maintaining and generating new local jobs, said Anne Haynes, the organization’s CEO.
“This is a great thing for Steve because it means he is running a very successful business for Sysco to have become interested in it,” she said, “but we really want to make sure that second- and third-generation businesses have the resources to survive in New Haven.”
Statewide will be the second meat distributer to leave the city. The first, Standard Beef, closed after an embezzlement scandal.