Kreidler It was a surprisingly easy transition from an affinity for rocks — the igneous kind and others — to a passion for Texas Rio Stars, the grapefruit kind.
When she enrolled at Texas A&M University, Gretchen Kreidler — now marketing and public relations director for Mission, Texas-based Rio Queen Citrus Inc. — planned to major in earth sciences and vowed never to return to the Rio Grande Valley, where she had spent her life to that point.
“I liked rocks,” she said. “When I aced my first geology class, I said, ‘Well, I guess this is what it’s supposed to be.’”
While Kreidler did not abandon her major, life’s circumstances would take her from rocks to fresh produce and ultimately dictate a return to the valley.
After graduating, there were limited job prospects for a fan of rocks, Kreidler said, so she interviewed with TexaSweet Citrus Marketing, Mission, and was hired on the spot, she said. Over the years, Kreidler has been mentored by some incredible people, she said. It was TexaSweet, and particularly Anna Martin, who first fostered what would become Kreidler’s passion for citrus.
“Everyone at TexaSweet helped to fuel my fire (for citrus),” Kreidler said. “But Anna really took me under her wing and molded me into a professional.”
What Martin admits began as a mothering role developed into a different relationship with Kreidler over the years.
“While she is a good friend, she is also very professional and always follows through on any task or duty that she has ever been asked to do,” she said.
So complete was Martin’s molding that Standard Fruit and Vegetable Co. Inc. would lure Kreidler away from TexaSweet. At Dallas-based Standard, Kreidler would further hone her marketing skills. A commitment to family, however, would trigger a hiatus from the fresh produce industry.
In 2002, Kreidler took over the family’s then 91-year-old business, Kreidler Funeral Home, in McAllen, Texas. After six years as the family’s first woman funeral director since her great, great grandmother held the title, Kreidler began to miss the fresh produce industry, she said.
To the rescue came Rio Queen Citrus, where in 2008 Kreidler took over marketing, public relations and — more recently — has begun assisting in sales.
“You can’t really say I’m marketing director, because I don’t direct anybody,” she said.
Another hiatus from fresh produce seems less likely than earlier in her career.
“It’s a fascinating business, it’s fun, people are great, the atmosphere is casual and friendly,” Kreidler said. “I feel I fit in well with the atmosphere of the produce industry. Most people in it are passionate about what they do.”
If Anna Martin was Kreidler’s first produce industry mentor, her husband, Mike Martin, president of Rio Queen, has now assumed a similar role.
“He is an incredible leader who runs the company morally and technically,” Kreidler said. “It’s just a pleasure to work with him.”
The respect and admiration appear to go both directions. The company is fortunate to have Gretchen as a member of the Rio Queen family, Martin said.
“Gretchen is a great communicator and has an excellent ability to relate to people,” he said. “This, combined with a growing passion for the produce industry, makes her an ideal candidate to become a leader of industry issues, causes and organizations in the years to come.”
Kreidler’s passion for produce is reinforced these days by the satisfaction she receives from marketing the company’s commodities.
“What’s important to us is pleasing our customers, doing the best we can for our customers,” Kreidler said. “They come to us not for price. They’re coming to us for our service.”
When Kreidler’s busy schedule offers a break from her pleasing customers, marketing and public relations duties, she becomes what some may view as a stereotypical Texan.
“I’m an outdoorsy type,” Kreidler said. “I like hunting, fishing and skeet shooting.”
There is, however, an artistic side.
Kreidler’s indoor hobby is making jewelry.
“I’m a silversmith,” she said. “I make silver and gold jewelry from melting the silver to hammering it out to creating my own designs.”
Her customers are often friends and acquaintances, Kreidler said, and not as often customers from her jewelry website, which, she said, “hasn’t been updated in years.”
“When I get orders, it kind of overwhelms me, because I don’t always have that much time to do it, and I feel guilty when I have not finished a piece,” Kreidler said.
Not overwhelming to Kreidler are the letters Rio Queen receives from consumers.
“I write personal thank you notes to every person who writes to our company,” she said.
The vast majority of those consumer letters praise the Rio Queen products, Kreidler said.
“In three years, we’ve received maybe two letters from unhappy consumers,” she said.
As for the exterior scars sometimes found on Rio Grande Valley citrus cause by the region’s frequent winds, Kreidler’s reply indicated why she’s in marketing.
“We call them south Texas beauty marks.”