As seen in the : Belleville Nutley Patch
By Steve Sears, January 10, 2012
here is a Belleville business soon to be celebrating its 15th anniversary, and a guess is many in the township, and in neighboring areas, are unaware of its existence.
It’s time to raise that awareness and unveil this gem of a natural food and ingredient supplier.
Meet Ecuadorian Rainforest LLC, run by founder Marlene Hurtado Siegel, originally born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, now residing in Totowa, and her son, Vice-President and partner, Manhattan resident Steve Siegel.
Founded in 1997, Ecuadorian Rainforest, LLC, is a wholesale supplier, packager and repackager of all natural fruit, herb, marine, spice and vegetable ingredients primarily from South America. The product line is well near 600 items, and weekly testing is the norm. Ecuadorian Rainforest LLC is a member of the Natural Product Association, American Botanical Council and Institute of Food Technologists.
And in 2011, Steve Siegel founded two more significant businesses “within the business.” Seeing a need for safe cleaning of foods, he created Steri-Lite, an ultraviolet ray method of cleaning foods with light and, wanting to reach a consumer audience, he also created Forest RX LLC and online site where non-wholesalers could purchase ingredients through the website. In fact, the latter has been picked up by Amazon.
“I thought I was the guide of the company,” says Marlene, looking at her 32-year-old son with a smile. “Steven helped me, gave me ideas. How should the business be developed in a professional way?”
Steve Siegel, who had been involved part-time at the company’s inception while a college student at Northeastern (undergrad) and Emerson (graduate, Masters Degree in Marketing) Universities in Boston came on board full-time and brought more organization.
“I’m a big believe in systems,” says Steve, recalling hundreds of files being unlabeled. “The biggest thing was to actually, really, create a hierarchy. It needed structure.”
Ecuadorian Rainforest, LLC, was first housed in a small space in Paterson, and soon thereafter needed a larger building. The Siegels started looking for a spot, off of nearby Routes 3 and 21. They found it on Main Street in Belleville at the edge of Mill Street.
“Belleville,” says Steve, “is also not as overwhelming as Newark. It’s a combination of industrial and a small town.” And it’s geographically located next to the before mentioned highways, and Newark Airport, should shipments ever need picking up.
“I saw the building; it had a different look,” says Marlene, noting the location appeared boring and drab. “I like colors, wood.” So she got to painting it, and the green color of the offices and sereneness of the downstairs waiting area transport you to, yes, a rainforest.
Ecuadorian Rainforest employees 29 people, many Belleville residents. “Everyone has to work and do something – they all play their part,” says Steve of the folks in the office area and in the downstairs warehouse. “They come in and do their job and get results. And it’s not always in dollar signs; they learn something, too.”
In 2012, Marlene Hurtado Siegel wants to further tap resources available here in the Garden State.
"I want to have fruit from New Jersey. I want to bring farms from south and central New Jersey to sell to me. There are so many beautiful things in New Jersey,” she says, lauding the Pine Barrens area of Atlantic and Burlington counties. “People complain, but there’s a lot here.”
Overall, Marlene Siegel has found success with with Ecuadorian Rainforest, LLC, here in Belleville. When asked how she defines success, she smiles broadly.
“At the end of each day, I feel terrific,” Marlene says.
Ecuadorian Rainforest, LLC, 25 Main St., Buliding 6, Belleville. Call them at (973) 759-2002 or log on to www.intotherainforest.com