(UPDATED COVERAGE, 4:20 p.m.) Hailed as an innovator who helped change the way stores received produce, friends, former colleagues and family mourned the death of industry icon Lou Kertesz Sr.
The former vice president of produce operations for procurement and merchandising for The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. Inc., Montvale, N.J., Kertesz is credited with helping change the face of the produce industry by introducing truckload shipments to retail stores.
Kertesz, 76, died June 2. Services were scheduled for June 6 at the Glick Family Funeral Home in Boca Raton, Fla.
Lauded for helping move large volumes of produce through retail, Kertesz in 1980 won The Packer’s Produce Marketing Man of the Year Award.
Lou Kertesz Jr., vice president of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Fresh Quest Produce Inc., said his father created a movement that revolutionized produce shipments.
“He created a lot of careers and inspired a lot of people,” Kertesz Jr. said. “He inspired people to put the passion in the business. If you loved him, you had to ride the roller coaster to destinations you’d never go to.”
Kertesz said his dad achieved success during the days when retail chains possessed the flexibility to run promotions to help move large volume of commodities at lower margins.
Born in a small Hungarian village, Kertesz achieved World Cup fame by playing professional soccer for the Hungarian National team and in the U.S. during the 1950s before a knee injury sidelined him to consider another career.
After fighting in the Hungarian Revolution, Kertesz immigrated to the U.S. in 1959 and worked as a dish washer in Cleveland before moving to Milwaukee where he worked at a grocery store.
While filling in for a vacationing produce manager at Kohls Food Stores, Kertesz was given the opportunity to manage his own store. He later joined A&P at its Indianapolis regional office and was later promoted to heading all perishables at its headquarters.
Leaving A&P during the 1980s, Kertesz for a decade ran a consulting business and consulted for former A&P owner Tangleman Co.’s European stores and became a co-owner of Pueblo International, which owned a large Puerto Rican and Caribbean retail chain.
Kertesz is survived by wife Magdolna, daughter Ava Blank, his son and five grandchildren.
The family requests donations to Hospice by the Sea Care Center or to the National Parkinson Foundation.
Blank worked in other areas of the produce industry and helped her husband, Gary Blank, start Spectrum Produce Distributing Inc. in Nogales, Ariz., Kertesz Jr. said.