Spotlight Series: Terry DePietro of William H. Kopke, Jr. and KDC

Terry DePietro
Director of Pier Operations, William H. Kopke, Jr. Inc. and KDC


CACC: How did you start your career in the fresh fruit industry? Did you always envision yourself working in this field?

Terry DePietro (T.D.): I began my career in late November 1982, when Wm. H. Kopke, Jr., Inc. affectionally known as ‘Kopke,’ promoted Paul Wigand to Director of Operations in the Corporate office headquartered in New York. I was one of three people hired to fill Paul’s huge shoes at the Ports of Philadelphia. My sister, who worked for Hillcrest Sales, a Chilean fruit importer, told me about Kopke’s opening. I applied for the position, and 38 years later, the rest is history.

So many memories, I recall a late-night working at Holt Terminal: a beloved food truck arrived, with 15 of us standing in line – I was thinking, “if someone had told me that I would one day be standing in line with a bunch of longshoremen underneath the Walt Whitman Bridge on the Jersey side at 10 p.m. I would have said they were crazy”. I never saw it coming, but I have loved every minute of it.

CACC: How does Kopke support Chilean trade?

T.D.: Up until this past October, Peter Kopke Sr. and Paul Wigand traveled together to Chile every year, meeting with the shippers and growers at the farms and packing houses to support and share valuable trade information. In addition to building strong, successful business relationships between Kopke and numerous Chilean fruit exporters, true friendships were formed over the years. With the need for more warehouse space and a considerable demand for repacking and precooling precious commodities, Kopke decided it was time to build their own warehouse.

The warehouse known as KDC (Kopke Distribution Center) is in Vineland, N.J. KDC’s president, Michael Meyers, worked closely with builders and industry leaders to ensure the Facility met all the needs of the grower’s precious commodities. Michael proudly opened the doors to the new Facility in December 2019. The building is over 165,000 thousand square feet, has 29 loading dock doors, over 6 thousand pallet positions, and four state-of-the-art precoolers, each with the capability to rapidly cool 25 pallets at a time.

CACC: What is your favorite part of working within the maritime trade industry?

T.D.: I love the passion for this business that I see in every person who returns for each new Chilean fruit season that makes this Industry unlike no other. I have always said when someone new comes into the fruit business, they are going to hate to it & leave asap, or they are going to love it and stay forever. The passion that everyone brings to the fruit industry is what makes it so successful. For those who choose to stay in the business, the word ‘passion’ is synonymous with the Chilean fruit industry. You not only remember the words that have been spoken in meetings, awards luncheons and dinners by the many pioneers of our industry, but you can reflect on their “hands on” approach which led the way for others. Observing Peter Kopke Sr. at the piers inspecting the fruit after fumigation in freezing weather vessel after vessel spoke volumes about his dedication to the business. To see Andy Economou at Tioga Marine Terminal on many a late night in the trenches with his team. Tom Holt Sr. for his vision and dedication to the Industry, along with many others, I thank them all for, without them, I would not have had the tremendous opportunities that have been presented to me.

CACC: Who have been the most influential people during your years on the waterfront?

T.D.: Peter Kopke Sr. for his extensive knowledge of the fruit industry.

Paul Wigand for his unwavering loyalty to our company and constant consideration for the little guy. Paul Wigand worked alongside Peter Kopke Sr. from February 1977 until his passing on October 17th, 2020.

Capt. H. Hickman Rowland Jr. president and owner of Wilmington Tug until his untimely death in 2017 for his kindness and generosity to all.

CACC: What makes the CACC a special and valuable organization to you?

T.D.: The CACC is a critical organization for our industry. Having been honored with a position as a Board Member for the CACC in 2019 was incredibly special for me. Having an organization such as the CACC available to help anyone who is interested in doing business between our two countries is a continued commitment to the future of our trade together.

Many thanks to Terry for participating in this week’s Spotlight Series!

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