Women In Produce: Lisa Strube

04/18/2011 11:16:00 AM
Coral Beach

StrubeFor Lisa Strube, life comes down to three P’s — produce, people and patience. She’s confident she knows what she’s doing with produce and people, but she is still working on that pesky patience thing.

When asked about her management style, Strube, the director of finance and administration for Strube Celery and Vegetable Co. in Chicago takes a breath, releases a little sigh and confesses: “Sometimes I think it would be easier to do it myself. But I do try to lead by example and listen to people. I know that’s best, but sometimes I just want to do it myself.”

Strube’s get-it-done approach might intimidate some, but company workers know she won’t ask them to do anything she wouldn’t do herself.

When a blizzard shut down Chicago in February, Strube stayed at work overnight because she feared potential power outages would damage produce. Her dedication inspired others to go the extra mile.

“I didn’t expect anyone would be able to get in the next day, but two of our employees came riding in on snow plows. They really came through for us,” she said.

Such loyalty struck Strube 24 years ago when she joined the business. As someone who married into Chicago’s oldest federally licensed produce wholesale business, Strube said she has always been treated like a true Strube — even after she and her husband divorced.

She considers herself part of the fourth generation of the Strube produce dynasty and said her son, Robert Strube IV, might be the fifth, if he loses interest in architecture studies at the University of Illinois.

The jury is still out on whether her daughter Gretchen, a junior in high school, will follow the produce path that Fred Strube started in 1913 with his celery cart.

From that cart the company grew to a 70,000-square-foot warehouse that is used to distribute the Chicago area’s largest variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s a big operation, but her peers say it is well within Strube’s abilities.

“Lisa is a consummate professional. Family, work and ethics come to mind when I think of Lisa,” said Dave Watson, vice president of sales for the North American central region for Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc., who formerly worked with Strube at Strube Celery & Vegetable Co.

Watson said Strube’s work doesn’t stop at her warehouse doors. He said her work with the Wholesaler/Distributor Board of the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association is particularly noteworthy.

Lisa McNeece, vice president of foodservice and industrial sales for Grimmway Farms, Bakersfield, Calif., agreed with Watson.

However, when Strube suggested McNeece join a U.S. Department of Agriculture advisory board, McNeece wasn’t sure it was such a good idea.

“It was an incredibly valuable experience, though,” McNeece said. “We both learned a lot about the industry and government and I learned a lot about Lisa.

“She is very knowledgeable and she is highly respected for that. Knowledge is power and she has it. But she is also fair and always has a smile on her face. People listen to her.”

Strube said this year her focus is on children’s nutrition and how the industry can advance that cause. She said she was particularly inspired during a salad bar dedication at a Chicago public school earlier this year.

She also helps carry on the charitable work started by Robert Strube Sr., who decades ago established programs to feed needy people in Chicago.

When she isn’t wearing her produce hat you will find her in a Chicago Cubs cap.

“This is the year,” she said with conviction. “The Cubs are gonna make it (to the World Series).”



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