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Comer Packing Company, Inc. - Foresight Helps Food Distributor Adapt, Survive…and Thrive

Jimmy and Ray Comer, Comer Packing Company, Inc. in Aberdeen, Miss.

Comer Packing Company, Inc. - Foresight Helps Food Distributor Adapt, Survive…and Thrive

The meat processing industry has changed a lot over the past few decades. One of the biggest changes has been the disappearance of small meat processing houses, which have been largely replaced by big operations like Tyson Foods, Cargill Meat Solutions and JBS USA.

 

Comer Packing Company, Inc., saw this change coming decades ago and was proactive in preparing for it. This foresight helped pave the way for the success the company enjoys today, says President and CEO Jimmy Comer.

 

From Meat Cutter to Meat Processing House

 

The Aberdeen, Miss.-based wholesale food distributor was founded by Jimmy’s father, Gorden, in 1945 as a small meat processing house that sold to local grocery stores. “Dad started out as a meat cutter at Kroger and then he leased a frozen meat locker, from which he started Comer Packing,” says Comer.

 

But by the early 1980s, Comer says it was apparent the days of the small meat processing house were coming to an end. “It was a hard decision for dad, but we knew it was the right thing to do.” They took about 10 years to transition away from meat processing into distribution in order to minimize the financial impact on the company.

 

Now, Comer Packing has become a diversified wholesale distributor of poultry, beef, pork, prepared food products and food service items like cooking oil, plates and cups. The company sells to about 400 grocery stores, restaurants and convenience stores within a 125-mile radius of Aberdeen.

 

“We were fortunate to have a great relationship with Bryan Foods when we were transitioning away from meat processing,” says Comer. He explains that Bryan Foods was moving away from distribution and referred many of their small grocery customers to Comer Packing. “This was a big help to our business during this transition time,” says Comer.

 

Classic Family Business

 

Comer Packing Company is a classic family business success story. Jimmy started working for the business in 1967 and worked with his father for 30 years before he retired. And 20 years ago, Jimmy’s son Ray joined the company to make it a third-generation family business.

 

Comer says Ray has been instrumental in helping Comer Packing diversify into more food service items. “The rewards of running a family business far outweigh the challenges,” says Comer. “Ray and I share each other’s confidence. It’s good to know that I can take a few days off to visit my daughter and grandson and be confident the business is in good hands.”

 

Ray Comer feels the same way: “Dad told me when I first entered the business that it wouldn’t always be easy, but I would determine my own fate and make my own decisions. Despite the challenges, I’ve learned that being part of a family business is much better than working for somebody else.”

 

Meeting Financial Challenges

 

One of Comer Packing’s biggest recent challenges has been adjusting its finances to accommodate the tighter payment terms of its big suppliers. “When these big companies merge, they usually shorten their terms and become more rigid,” says Comer. For example, he says Comer Packing used to get 10 to 20 day terms, but now seven days is typical.

 

“The money better be in their account on the due date,” he says. “And with electronic banking, there’s no such thing as check float anymore.”

 

Comer stresses the financial challenges presented by these strict payment terms make his Cadence Bank line of credit absolutely essential. “Sometimes cash flow can get a little tight so it’s good to know that our line of credit with Cadence Bank is there when we need it.”

 

Currently, Comer Packing Company has multiple checking and savings accounts and business loans with Cadence Bank.

 

“It’s hard to make it in business today without a solid banking relationship,” says Comer. “Cadence Bank has always provided the financial support we’ve needed over the years, whether it was for expansion, renovation, new trucks or working capital. Their help has enabled us to do a lot of the things we’ve done to become successful.”

 

Comer Packing Company, Inc., is located at 1000 South Poplar Street in Aberdeen, Miss.

 

More client success stories

 

Read more helpful tips and advice for growing and managing your business at Cadence Bank’s Fresh Insights Portal.

 

 

This article is provided as a free service to you and is for general informational purposes only. Cadence Bank makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the content in the article. The article is not intended to provide legal, accounting or tax advice and should not be relied upon for such purposes.

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