This year marks the George L. Wells Meat Company's 95th anniversary in continuous operation, a considerable achievement under any circumstances. This milestone is even more extraordinary when you bear in mind the events that transpired since the company's inception in 1908.

Our country suffered during the Great Depression. We watched as our young men marched off to foreign lands to fight for freedom. The national economy withstood major fluctuations, which in some cases, involved scant supplies of vital products. We witnessed societal changes that changed our country, our values, the way we do business, and shaped the lives we lead today.

Many businesses, when faced with these hardships, faltered and ceased to exist. However, the George L. Wells Meat Company endured, survived, grew and prospered, and along the way, developed a reputation as being the finest provider of meats and provisions for restaurants and institutions in the Delaware Valley.

Shawn Padgett, vice president of sales and marketing, believes that an unyielding dedication to quality was what kept the company afloat during rough times.

"Many of our competitors focused on the price first, quality second, while quality has always been our first consideration," Padgett said. "We've offered the best products, have always cut our meat to customer specifications, and concentrated on serving the customer."

"We've never compromised our customers in any way," she added, "and that's why we're still here and many of our competitors are not."

Philadelphian George L. Wells founded the company. His first customers were hospitals, schools, and nursing homes, since there were very few fine restaurants in the city at that point in time. Horse-drawn wagons were used to deliver products.

James Conboy, current owner, purchased the company in 1970, after rising through its ranks as a passionate, committed employee. Conboy has carried on the tradition of offering the finest products and highest levels of service, in keeping with the foundation on which the company built its sterling reputation. He has led the company to its current industry-leading status.

The early 1970's were a time of great growth for the George L. Wells Meat Company. The restaurant scene in center city Philadelphia exploded, with the trend led by individuals like Georges Perrier and Steve Poses. Fine restaurants opened all over the city and the Wells Company was there to provide them with the upscale products they needed. Although the company is the top supplier in the area for better restaurants, and even supplies products to the President of the United States, it does not limit its clientele.

"We appreciate every customer," said Padgett. "Even if a customer buys only 25 pounds of ground beef from us a week, we service their needs in the same manner as our bigger clients."

"If a customer, no matter what type of restaurant or food service business, is quality conscious about their center-of-the-plate products, then we're the company for them," she declared.

The George L. Wells Meat Company stays close to customers by taking part in a number of area organizations. The company has representation in the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, South Jersey Professional Chef's Association, Delaware Valley Chef's Association, as well as the Pennsylvania Chef's Association. The company conducts training seminars at area culinary schools and colleges, and stays up-to-date on current trends by working closely with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, North American Meat Processors Association, and the Pennsylvania Beef Council.

Today, the company's headquarters are located in a sprawling Delaware Avenue complex, a modern, USDA approved state-of-the-art facility featuring a massive beef aging room. Employees follow an exacting H.A.A.C.P. (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) program, to ensure that products have been stored, packed and shipped at the proper temperatures to prevent foodborne pathogens. The company conducts cyclic e-coli testing and maintains food safety standards well beyond that required by law.

In 1913, the company bought its very first truck, and now maintains a large fleet of trucks, delivering a full line of over 5,000 products to restaurants and institutions along the Eastern seaboard. The assortment includes the highest quality beef, pork, veal, lamb, poultry and seafood. The company also offers a limited assortment of appetizers, pastas, desserts, and specialty foods.

"Price is not a consideration when we choose items to supplement our center of the plate product line," said Padgett. "We personally test each of the products, and base our decisions on taste, eye-appeal, and quality of packaging."

"We limit our line to only the best, and this way, we can ensure that our customers are getting the highest quality possible," she added.

The product that stands out in the line is Certified Angus Beef, a name created in the mid-1970's by the American Angus Association in response to relaxed beef grading standards. The association began its own grading program, one that includes the Certified Angus category, which means that cattle are 30 months of age or less, and the resulting meat is tender, flavorful and contains proper marbling.

The Wells Company became the third licensee in the program in 1983. The company must follow a strict set of guidelines to maintain the program. The meat must be aged properly and stored at controlled temperatures, along with other aspects of compliance.

"Being a licensed Certified Angus Beef distributor lends credibility to being one of the highest quality meat companies in the country," Padgett said. "We recognize that this is a superior product and that is what we do, seek out the best of everything."

Not only is the George L. Wells Meat Company a business success, the company is also an excellent place to work. Management has created an admirable work atmosphere and nurtured a sense of dedication and loyalty in its employees, undoubtedly another factor in the company's success. Many employees have over 25 years of service at the George L. Wells Meat Company, and to help keep them focused on the company's high objectives, management has created a clear and direct mission statement. It is apparently quite effective.

It reads, "Our commitment to excellence is our customers' assurance of uncompromising value, quality, and service. As the premiere center-of-the-plate protein supplier in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., we continually strive to meet our customers' expectations. Our goals are reflections of the elite customer base we are honored to serve."

With goals like this, the company seems poised and ready for even greater success in the next century to come.

The George L. Wells Meat Company is located at 982 North Delaware Avenue, Philadelphia. The telephone number is (800) 523-1730.