I had the chance to chat with Dick Spezzano on May 4. Spezzano, president of Spezzano Consulting Services, Monrovia, Calif. In 1990, Spezzano, as vice president of produce and floral for the Vons Cos. Inc., Santa Fe Springs, Calif., was recognized as The Packer's Produce Marketer of the Year for his role in promoting the use of electronic sales data as a tool for retailers and suppliers. He also was cited for his efforts to forge industry bonds as well as increase charity fund raising.
2:24 p.m. Tom Karst: Thanks for taking time for a chat this morning Dick
2:25 p.m. I wanted to ask about your first connection to the industry. Where did you grow up and when did you find yourself first talking about produce?
2:27 p.m. Dick Spezzano: Hi Tom
2:28 p.m. I grew up in the Boston area and worked for the Star Market Company in the produce department while going to college.
2:29 p.m. Tom: So you had a connection to the industry even before you were done with college - and it stuck!
2:30 p.m. Dick: It did. I loved the changing seasons and the excitement of the department.
Tom: Your name is synonymous with retailing, particularly in California. Did you ever work on the sales desk for a shipper - or were you ever tempted to?
2:31 p.m. Dick: I had a few offers but always declined as I felt my true calling was at retail.
2:32 p.m. Tom: We often hear about relationships in the produce business. When you sliced it and diced it, while you were a retailer, how much did those relationships with suppliers count versus other factors?
2:35 p.m. Dick: Our philosophy was to work with a small number of really good growers and marketers, so relationship building was key. Vons would have not had the success in the produce division if it weren't for these relationships. We knew what the next great item was going to be usually prior to other retailers by working with the innovators like the Sun World people.
2:37 p.m. Tom: In today's environment, how much do you think retailers should value innovation versus just offering the lowest price to consumers? Does that equation change with the economy?