Gene Loffredo, president and owner of Des Moines, Iowa-based Loffredo Fresh Produce Co. Inc. from 1965-1982, died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 88.
Loffredo died Aug. 15, three months to the day after losing his wife, Sara, to leukemia. The two had been married 63 years.
Loffredo's oldest of his five sons, also named Gene Loffredo, has served as president since his father’s retirement in 1982.
When his family started in the produce business in 1892, it was in the business of growing.
“We were truck gardeners from the first generation until my father’s time,” Loffredo said. “They had hundreds of acres of gardens and sold the staples — lettuces, cucumbers, squash, they probably had 15 items — and supplied restaurants.”
The company also supplied other foodservice institutions, including Fort Des Moines during World War I and II.
The elder Loffredo served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1942-46, before rejoining the family business, then known as Loffredo Gardens. He grew up in the business and spent the first two years out of high school working full-time for the company.
When his father, Tony Loffredo, left the company to his son in 1965, Gene Loffredo started the process of transitioning its business model to its current format, a full-line produce wholesaler and distributor with a presence in seven states.
“When they started to expand, that’s when he began bringing in fruit and anything he couldn’t grow,” the younger Loffredo said. “My father moved on to becoming more of a full-line produce wholesaler.”
The elder Loffredo worked to expand the business, but kept it in Iowa. In the 1970s, the company took its first foray into processing, with peeled potatoes.
When the elder Loffredo took over the company, it had five trucks and about ten employees. Today the company has more than 100 trucks and employs 400. The elder Loffredo and his wife Sara had five sons, all of whom are still with Loffredo Produce, along with some of the fifth-generation family members.
“He was a very family oriented man. He always wanted to be with his kids,” Loffredo said.
Although the business today is very different from the business his father ran, Loffredo credits him with setting the foundation on which the company has been able to prosper.
“He was a good business man,” Loffredo said. “He formed a lot of relationships, and taught me that this is a relationship business. His name in California was known pretty well, as ours still is today.”
After retirement, Loffredo still spent a lot of time at the company — with the exception of winter, which he spent in Arizona. He spent his final years living at Arbor Springs, a care facility in Des Monies.
“Everyone there called him Papa and say they will never forget his laughter and sense of humor,” Loffredo said. “He will be missed by many.”
A memorial service was Aug. 19 in Des Moines at Iles Funeral Home, whose website has an obituary written by Gene Loffredo and a guestbook.