MANCHESTER, Vt. -- The Frozen Food Association of New England, which met here Sept. 14 to 16 for its annual convention, has resolved to become stronger despite consolidation, perhaps opening up to dairy as well as frozen buyers, and merging meetings and events when it can to work within a decreased budget.
Under unusual circumstances, FFANE, based in Arlington, Mass., met at the Equinox resort here, just days after terrorist attacks on the United States. The keynote speaker canceled, unable to get a flight from Washington, and two executives of the National Frozen Food Association couldn't get there from Harrisburg, Pa., either. About 30 people couldn't make it, but 193 did attend a weekend that served to strengthen business ties as it renewed frayed nerves.
Scheduled keynote speaker Roger Davidson, senior vice president of Ahold USA, Chantilly, Va., said through an assistant that he could not take time to discuss what he would have said, after the meeting.
C.A. Dapolite, the outgoing president of FFANE, said the meeting took place as scheduled because the group did not want to give in to intimidation by terrorists.
Facing increased consolidation among sales agents, manufacturers and retailers, Dapolite told the group at the meeting Saturday, FFANE must explore contacts with other associations to share resources. He asked each member to get involved -- to volunteer, join a committee or get on the board of directors. "Our greatest resource is the diversity of our members," Dapolite said.
Among attendees, some had mixed emotions but decided they needed a break from constant news updates and general tension. All participated in a candlelight vigil held outside on the hotel steps at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, as the rest of the nation did the same. A moment of silence for the victims was held before the annual meeting on Saturday morning.
"They told me I had an opportunity to cancel, what with people coming from California and all over, but I didn't want to," Dapolite told SN Friday night. "I feel that would be letting them win. And besides, we're all family. That's what families are for, to be there for each other." Dapolite is Northeast regional sales manager of Yofarms, Contuit, Mass. Installed as new president was Bill Lyons, vice president, perishables, Acosta Sales and Marketing Co., Marlboro, Mass.
"Just to see how many people made it says something," said Lyons, who also asked for volunteers to look at what FFANE can do with other groups in the New England-Albany, N.Y., market, where its 135 members operate.
Walter Hughes, a director of sales for the Northeast for Americold Logistics in Allentown, Pa., lost a friend on the plane that went down in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, and told SN, "The attitude is one of a united front, people bridging political differences and philosophies."
Ian Torrey, frozen food buyer for C&S Wholesale Grocers, Brattleboro, Vt., said he thought the weekend was very helpful in a business sense, since he had been able to meet a lot of people who had been only voices on the phone previously. "It's been a very productive weekend," said Torrey.
Kevin O'Brien, frozen food buyer for Roche Bros. Supermarkets, Wellesley, Mass., said that like most people, he had been watching TV all week until about midnight, then getting up at 5 a.m. for work. "By Thursday I was exhausted, all wound up.
"This weekend helped everybody. It certainly was one big extended family, and right now, people do need family," he said.
O'Brien noted that the participatory nature of the FFANE activities, especially the softball game Saturday afternoon, served to strengthen ties among the members.
Linwood Wilson, category manager for frozen food for SuperValu, Andover, Mass., said he and his wife Lori were worried about leaving their children, but then thought that the youngsters would be reassured that it was safe enough for the parents to leave.