For some produce suppliers in Ohio, family is the thread that keeps their businesses going from generation to generation.
It’s a true difference-maker for DNO Inc., a Columbus, Ohio-based wholesaler, said Tony DiNovo, president.
“I can say this in all honesty: If my son wasn’t coming into the business, I never would have bought these buildings,” DiNovo said.
He said his son, Alex, 29, has been with the company full-time since he was 18 or 19 and part time for several years before that.
“If he hadn’t expressed the interest and shown me he has the capability of really doing that rigorous 80 hours a week and living up to the decisions you make and working the different jobs, I just wouldn’t have done it,” DiNovo said.
Not everyone is willing to make the sacrifices needed to keep a family-owned produce business going, DiNovo said.
“I had the one boy and he has taken over the lion’s share of the day-to-day business in that regard,” DiNovo said.
The price to pay for that dedication is time away from home, DiNovo said.
“It takes away from the family, but the reality is if you want things to be better later, it’s just going to be hard on that,” DiNovo said.
DiNovo’s brother, Gus, also is in the business, along with Gus’ son, Phillip.
“I’m so fortunate we have two young family members and three or four people of their age group,” DiNovo said.
“I can’t put in 70- or 80-hour weeks anymore, but that’s what the produce business is a lot about.”
James Sanfillipo III, 39, went into partnership with his father, Jim, now 60, in 1996, or the father likely would have shuttered his family-owned produce wholesale business back then, James Sanfillipo said.
“People ask what it’s like working with my father, and I say I don’t know because I’ve never done anything else,” he Sanfillipo said.
The stability of being in the family business helps keep the company going, Sanfillipo said.
“I’ve seen mistakes my father and uncles made and I don’t have to make them,” he said.
Longstanding customer relationships also can continue from one generation to the next, Sanfillipo said.
“People like to see that name,” he said.
In the Cleveland area, the Sirna name has been familiar to produce buyers for 80 years.
Tom and Vincent Sirna took over the family operation — Sirna & Sons Produce — from their father, Joseph, who is now 88, more than 35 years ago.
Recently, Tom hired his own son, Anthony, to the sales staff.
The next generation is in place, Tom Sirna said.
“It’s a big difference for me,” he said.
Sirna expanded its distribution facility in East Norwalk, Ohio, last year and plans to add to its headquarters in Ravenna, Ohio, this year, Tom Sirna said.
Neither of those projects likely would happen without the assurance and stability of family guidance for the company, now and in the future, Tom Sirna said.
“We probably wouldn’t think about doing a remodel in another situation,” he said.
It also helps to have a younger generation coming up to provide its own insights, Tom Sirna said.
“Anthony, in six months, has given me some ideas that I probably wouldn’t have thought about,” Tom Sirna said.
Tom and Vincent Sirna also have a sister, Serena Sirna-Wagner, who is involved in the company.
Joseph Sirna shows up from time to time.
“He’s got a lot of wisdom and everybody around here respects him,” Tom Sirna said.