Eastern Poultry Distributors, Inc. was founded by John C. Rueger in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. John brokered fresh whole birds from chicken producers on the Eastern Shore of Maryland to customers in Baltimore, Washington, and Philadelphia, which is the inspiration for our company’s name.
Although successful, Eastern remained a relatively small trading company with one to two salesmen. That was when John’s youngest son, Tom, came to work with his father. A young entrepreneur, Tom was eager to expand the business.
Noticing an opportunity in the marketplace, Tom opened Brandywine Foods in Cochranville, Pennsylvania. This deboning and processing facility initially found its niche in portion-controlled boneless breast, but quickly built a strong market for breaded tenders and party wings. As Brandywine Foods grew, so did Eastern.
Brandywine Foods continued to grow, and it became apparent that it would need to expand its capacity to meet the growing demand. In 1990, Tom cut the ribbon on another plant in Cleveland, Mississippi. Much larger and more efficient, this plant was better suited to meet the company’s growing demands. The new facility would be home to 500 employees and double Brandywine’s capacity.
Brandywine’s growth did not go unnoticed. Tom sold the business of 900 employees and $100 million in annual sales to Tyson Foods. The end of the Brandywine era created new opportunities for Eastern. Three key Brandywine employees, Thad Eshelman, John Duffy, and Tom Mitchell, joined Eastern and brought with them a wealth of industry and processing knowledge. They joined a core group of salesmen that included Jon Poole, Henry Buzgon and Joe Reid who are all still with the company and have over 150 years of combined industry experience.
The corporate headquarters in Pennsylvania was strategic to the business operations when the company was founded in 1954. At that time, it was important to be within reach of our suppliers on the eastern shore of Delaware and our customers in New York and Philadelphia. As Eastern grew, our customer base became national and international. Technology also enabled us to remotely manage our business and as a result, our location became less important. That’s when Tom made the decision to move the operations headquarters to sunny Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Looking to diversify its protein offerings, Eastern acquired a family-owned and operated frozen seafood distributor in Jacksonville, Florida. Seafood Sales and Service was a young but growing company owned and operated by father and son, Abe and Dave Bielski. Since the acquisition, they’ve continued to increase its local restaurant and retail distribution, and its full line of retail branded frozen seafood entitled Nature’s Best. Abe and Dave share Eastern’s values of customer service and to offering their customers quality products.
Under Tom’s leadership, Eastern has continued its consistent growth. In 2015, Eastern underwent a rebranding to Eastern Quality Foods. Our updated name is a truer reflection of what the business has become. Not just poultry but many different protein offerings. Today, our nearly 50 employees service customers of eggs, beef, pork, seafood, and other products throughout the U.S. and abroad. Eastern has come a long way, yet the company remains loyal to its core values and roots as a family business. Tom recently named his oldest son, Ted Rueger, president of the company while his youngest son, John, works in sales and marketing. Ted is optimistic that with a continued commitment to serving our customers while remaining true to our core values, the future continues to look bright.