Scott Horowitz, left, CEO of Nassau Provisions, with his son,...

Scott Horowitz, left, CEO of Nassau Provisions, with his son, Eric, president, in the Nassau Provisions warehouse in Holtsville in May. Credit: Barry Sloan

Back in 1980, after his unhappy stint as a department store clothing buyer, Scott Horowitz decided to work for himself.

So, Horowitz, now 69, plowed his savings into buying a Hebrew National distribution route. But instead of mirroring the previous owner’s three-day workweek, Horowitz, believing the business had untapped growth potential, labored five days a week and as much as 14 hours a day. He cold-called kosher delis that the business didn’t already sell to and vendors for additional brands to distribute, according to his son, Eric Horowitz, 38, who, for the last eight years, has been president of Nassau Provisions Kosher Foods Inc. in Holtsville.

“My father would find out what items his customers wanted and he’d get it for them,” Eric Horowitz said. “He was a young guy who was starting a family and the stores wanted to do more business with him.”

Last month, under Eric Horowitz’s leadership, the family business acquired two Brooklyn-headquartered distributors — Quality Frozen Foods and Foodco. “We went from about 120 to 150 employees,” Eric Horowitz said.

With the acquisitions, Nassau Provisions also has added 50,000 square feet of warehouse space for a total of 175,000 square feet, as well as a private label lines, produced by contract manufacturers.

Today, the company carries 670 brands and distributes to 1,500 wholesale accounts, such as Gourmet Glatt in Cedarhurst and the Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace and ShopRite chains. It also has customers throughout the country and overseas, including as far away as Australia.

Eric Horowitz recently spoke to Newsday about his kosher foods wholesaling business. Answers have been edited for space.

Why did you join the business?

As a kid, I had it in my mind that I’d work here. In high school and college, I started developing the business computerized product cataloging systems.

An accounting major at the University of Miami, I worked for a year at PricewaterhouseCoopers to get some experience outside the family business. Many times, my father and I had spoken about my joining the company, and I joined because I saw the business growing and the opportunity for me to grow it further.

What was your initial role?

I started out in sales and was on the road every day, meeting with customers and, in doing that, I developed relationships, learned what sold well and found new products that we could bring in. I became the face of the company. By visiting all the stores and the stores dealing with me, I was able to give the business a personal touch.

Under your father’s tenure, what were the pivotal points of growth?

In the early '90s, an older guy, who worked for one of our vendors and became my father’s friend, convinced him to open a warehouse. My father, who had two trucks at the time, had been hesitant to take on that overhead but the timing was perfect. It took place just when ConAgra Brands purchased Hebrew National, and said it was getting out of New York and moving all operations to the Midwest.

Since Hebrew National had had no distribution centers and had shipped directly to wholesalers, under ConAgra, the only way for distributors to get Hebrew National products was to have a warehouse to receive the shipments. And if wholesalers didn’t have a warehouse, they had no way to get Hebrew National.

Also, in the early '90s, my father brought in a person with experience selling to supermarkets. Based on his advice, my father brought a freezer into the warehouse to take on frozen foods, and he began expanding his customer base from delis to supermarkets.

What’s your father’s role in the business these days?

He is the CEO, handling the financial end of the business, although he is semiretired and spends half the time in Florida and the other half in New York. We speak every single day and talk about problems and ideas. He’s my go-to person who helps me in all major decisions, and I couldn’t do them without him.

The firm’s busiest and slowest periods?

Business slows down during the week of Passover, and after Passover is our busiest time because stores haven’t been buying and need to restock.

What’s the criteria for adding new items?

We have no hard and fast rule, but we want two months’ dating on what we sell, and we try to steer to products that are six to eight months ahead of their expirations.

Except for cheeses that have a comparatively longer shelf like — like HaOlam Feta, which can last a year, we don’t sell dairy products.

Your bestsellers?

Not in any order, Eggo waffles, Hebrew National hot dogs, Streit’s matzos, General Mills Cheerios and Domino sugar.

Best parts of the business?

The relationship that we develop with our customers and the people who work for us.

The business is also never boring. There’s never a time when there’s something more or better to do, and there’s always room for improvement, or a new item to bring on or an additional item to sell to an existing customer.

Those are also the downsides because it means you never can finish you work.

What’s behind Nassau Provision’s staying power — in such a highly competitive market?

Our big sales team. Although we can compete with just an ordering book or computer, we offer a personal touch and can advise customers on what they should carry. And we deliver the next day — up until 6 p.m.

Customer relationships and customer service are sometimes more important than price.

At a Glance

Nassau Provisions Kosher Foods Inc.

President, co-owner: Eric Horowitz

CEO, founder, co-owner: Scott Horowitz

Location: Holtsville

Established: 1980

Employees: 150

Accounts: 1,500

Brands: 670

Yearly shipments to each account: $20,000 to $5 million

Total warehouse space: 175,000 square feet

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