Strube goes outside family for its president

11/29/2004 12:00:00 AM
Jim Offner


David Watson comes to the 91-year-old Chicago wholesaler and distributor from Chiquita.

(Nov. 29) CHICAGO — After 91 years in business, Strube Celery & Vegetable Co., for the first time, is going outside its family circle for leadership.

The wholesaler and distributor, which is one of the core companies on and played a central role in developing the two-year-old Chicago International Produce Market, has hired David Watson, vice president of commercial trading for Chiquita Brands International Inc., to be its president and chief operating officer.

With the change, Tim Fleming, Strube’s vice president, will focus more on special projects, and chief executive officer Jan Fleming will step back from day-to-day operations, Jan Fleming said.

Watson, 49, was to take up his new job — a position the company created for him — Nov. 29.

“We started going through a strategic plan, and as we began to look at ourselves, we knew that it was time to make some changes,” said Tim Fleming. “The industry was changing around us. Sometimes, when you’re focused as inwardly as we are, you need somebody who has a bigger view of the horizon, has a different way of managing and has different experiences.”

Watson, who will be responsible for managing Strube’s daily operations and building the firm’s value-added services, brings a wealth of experience.

A 27-year industry veteran, Watson spent the past seven years with Cincinnati-based Chiquita, where he was in charge of procurement and sales of vegetables, grapes, stone fruit, pip fruit, pineapples, avocados, papayas, melons and bananas.

Before that, Watson was vice president of sales and marketing for Gargiulo Inc., category manager for Sun World International and vice president of sales and procurement for the Cincinnati-based Castellini Group.

Watson began his career with Los Angeles-based Dole Food Co. Inc. in numerous sales and management roles.

“He’s well-rounded, and he has terminal-market experience,” said Jan Fleming. “He’s had direct experience managing both the purchasing side and marketing side of the business while working for larger, high-profile type of companies.”

Watson said that his wider perspective would help Strube’s long-term growth.

“I think from my perspective, several of the opportunities would be a national viewpoint, even though it’s a Midwestern company,” Watson said. “It’s certainly a very aggressive grower-based mentality, and it presents worldwide grower opportunity for distribution in and out of the Chicago area.”


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