100-year-old Strube changes leadership - The Packer

100-year-old Strube changes leadership

12/13/2013 12:47:00 PM
Tom Karst

Courtesy Strube Celery & Vegetable Co.New executive management has been named to lead Strube Celery & Vegetable Co. into its second century: Jason Trott (from left), director of operations; TJ Fleming, director of sales; Lisa Strube, director of finance; Sue Hunter, director of human resources and food safety; and Rob Strube III, president.CHICAGO — A new era and a new century has begun for the 100-year-old Strube Celery & Vegetable Co.

The company on Nov. 5 celebrated its 100th year anniversary, with Strube’s shippers and suppliers donating 50,000 pounds to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, said Rob Strube, president. Rob’s grandfather and former company president Bob Strube Sr. helped create the Chicago Food Depository, so the gift reflected the heritage of the company.

The Nov. 5 event also gave the opportunity to showcase the company’s fourth-generation leadership team and the company’s new logo and tagline, “Over 100 Years and still Fresh.”

With Rob Strube as president, Strube Vegetable & Co. has put in place T.J. Fleming as director of sales, Jason Trott as director of operations, Lisa Strube as director of finance and Sue Hunter as director of human resources and food safety.

“The fourth generation is taking over, and it is in our hands to keep it going,” Rob Strube said.

The company is working to extends its customer base off the market, with Chris Fleming charged with new business development and outside sales. Rob Strube and T.J. Fleming will transition off the sales floor, Strube said.

“I think we will be good,” he said. “We have a good sales force behind us,” he said.

Fleming, 45, said having a younger generation in place as the company’s leadership team will provide an advantage over some other wholesalers that do no have a succession plan in place.

2013 has been a good year for the wholesaler, Strube said, as higher markets for some vegetables have boosted returns.

Strube said the wholesaler offers an “A to Z” range of commodities, with both fruits and vegetables in competitive supply. Small independent grocers are core customers for the company, including retailers like Pete’s Fresh Market, Caputo’s Market and Brookhaven Marketplace. Fleming said Chicago is rich with independent grocers having store counts ranging from five to 10 stores, and giving those retailers great service is a priority.

Strube said perhaps 40% to 50% of the firm’s customers pick up their purchases at the market and Strube delivers the balance of the business.

Looking ahead to the next generation, the 49-year old Rob Strube said he has a 21-year-old son at the University of Illinois and a daughter who is a sophomore at an Iowa college.

While both are in majors not linked to the produce business, Strube said their future has yet to be written.

Fleming, who has two teenage children of 14 and 17 years old, said part of the reason he comes to work is to someday provide his kids a chance to work in the company.

“It was good enough for my parents, it was good enough for me, and it would be a good opportunity for them if they want to come and be part of the business too,” Fleming said.

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