Marty Kamer, 49, took to heart advice he heard long ago from Larry Kremple, one of his bosses when both worked at Kroger.
“He referred to the industry as the jungle, and he said when the sun comes up every morning in the jungle, you’d better be running,” he said.
That lesson that the industry is fast, demanding and dynamic was well learned by Kamer 30 years ago, who eventually switched from the buying side to the selling side of the business. After joining Keystone Fruit Marketing more than 15 years ago, Kamer is now vice president and partner of Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., Greencastle, Pa.
Kamer’s first experience in the produce industry was with the Kroger Co., Kamer began with Kroger in the store-management trainee program in Louisville, Ky., and after a handful of co-manager store assignments, he earned an opportunity to join the produce merchandising staff.“When I joined the produce merchandising team, I would have to say that’s when I began to have a true affinity for the industry,” he said. “That’s when I fell in love with fresh produce.”
Kamer’s work with Kroger gave him coast-to-coast experience with produce, and he took the opportunity to go to the procurement side of the business. Working the procurement side, Kamer said that he received an education about the crops, regions, and personalities on the supply side. It was this diverse experience that gave Kamer the ability to make what he describes as a “leap of faith” to switch from buyer to seller, as he joined Keystone in 1998.
While some perhaps fall short in that leap, Kamer believes being a buyer makes a person a better seller.
“I’ve never looked back and I’m blessed to be here at Keystone today,” he said.
A graduate of Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kamer also was selected for the inaugural class of the United Fresh Produce Leadership Program sponsored by DuPont.
Kamer has given the Keystone staff the discipline to under promise and over deliver, said Kurt Schweitzer, president of Keystone Fruit Marketing.
“The fact is that is how he leads his life,” he said. “He teaches his people not how to make a living, but how to make a difference.”