American Foodservice presdient Lucian LaBarba said he retired in July to spend time with family, write, travel and help local producers reach a wider audience in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. After nearly 50 years in the bustle and rush of the produce business, Lucian LaBarba is taking a step back to enjoy life. The president of American Foodservice, the Dallas branch of Houston-based FreshPoint, retired from the business July 23.
“After 49 years, the fast pace, the way I like to do things, it was very intense,” LaBarba said. “I’m looking forward to kicking back, drinking a little wine, having some fun and doing some traveling.”
LaBarba joined the family business, American Pre-Pack, the old fashioned way in his early teens.
“We went to work with my dad as kids,” he said. “Day care was going to work.”
After learning the business packing spinach and the early days of fresh-cut he moved over to the family’s wholesale company based out of the Dallas Farmers Market.
“We had quite a business, specializing working with chefs,” he said. “We had a full line of produce, a lot more than some others, because of our clientele. I moved up from pulling orders to working the front dock for sales, waiting on customers.”
Mainly working with his uncle JoJo LaBarba, Lucian LaBarba learned the business calling on customers and learning the “LaBarba Brand” of doing business in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
“Uncle JoJo was quite the personality and knew everybody in the Dallas and Fort Worth,” he said. “I really had a good education on how to sell, what to sell and the whole process.”
The company moved off the market in 1981 and changed its name to American Foodservice, where Lucian LaBarba worked in sales as the business expanded into more frozen, grocery, cheese and wine.
After exchanging ownership with Dallas-based Albert Fisher, the company was eventually purchased by Sysco’s FreshPoint, where LaBarba remained until his retirement.
The LaBarba clan’s reach in the DFW Metroplex is wide, with the third generation expanding its presence. Lucian LaBarba’s brother Carl LaBarba and his children Carl Jr. and Lauren LaBarba remain with FreshPoint, along with cousin Joey LaBarba.
Lucian LaBarba’s daughters Stephanie and Christina, previously with FreshPoint, have moved on to Fort Worth-based Ben E. Keith.
“I’m really proud of all the family and what we’ve achieved in the produce industry since 1917 when our family started American,” he said. “We’ve got a really proud tradition and heritage in the produce business that allows us to carry on the LaBarba brand.”
In his retirement, Lucian LaBarba has several projects in the works, including developing television programming focused on showcasing local DFW-area producers and artisans.
“The first thing I’m going to do is catch up with my wife Leslie and our daughters,” he said. “There’s also a lot of wine in my house that haven’t had a chance to think about. I’ve been approached with quite a few different opportunities in and out of the produce industry, but I’m going to relax and think about it in time.”