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Julian Lipschitz retires after career of more than 40 years in produce

by Rand Green | November 09, 2009
Julian Lipschitz, whose 41 years in the produce industry included 11 years on the sales desk for Fruit Patch Sales LLC in Reedley, CA, is "truly a legend," said Tim Dayka, a partner in Dayka & Hackett LLC in Reedley, CA, where Mr. Lipschitz worked for one year prior announcing his retirement in June.

During Mr. Lipschitz's employment at Fruit Patch, the company became the largest shipper of tree fruit in the United States and its sales increased more than fivefold to $178 million, Mr. Lipschitz said. When asked what he considered to be the highlight of his career, Mr. Lipschitz cited his part in helping to bring about that growth as perhaps his most satisfying achievement.

Dayka & Hackett held a retirement party this summer in honor of Mr. Lipschitz at Kelly's Beach, a riverside resort in Reedley, CA. At the event, Mike Weaver, who has worked alongside Mr. Lipschitz at Dayka & Hackett, at Fruit Patch and for many years prior, said of Mr. Lipschitz, "I've learned a lot from him. He is number one in my book and always will be, and I appreciate everything he has done for me."

John Forry, a partner in D.J. Forry Co., which handled import sales for Fruit Patch while Messrs. Lipschitz and Weaver were there, said that he had worked closely with them for many years. "We've had some great times together," he said. Mr. Lipschitz is "a great guy, and his partner is a great guy. They are inseparable" and they have contributed "a lot to this industry."

"Julian and Mike have really had a huge influence on our industry over the last decade or maybe even for the last two decades," said Mr. Dayka. "When I had the opportunity to sit down with the two of them" to discuss bringing them on board at Dayka & Hackett, "to be honest with you, I really didn't think that they would even give me the time of day, and I was really humbled by that opportunity."

Mr. Lipschitz has "offered a lot to the industry, and I think he would still have a lot to offer if he chose to stay on," Mr. Dayka said, adding that he has really appreciated the opportunity to work with him.

"The guys at Dayka & Hackett are really nice people," Mr. Lipschitz told The Produce News. "They do what they say they are going to do. They treat you nice. They have a real good formula for success in the way they do things."

Mr. Lipschitz, a graduate of California State University at Long Beach, said that he worked in a supermarket and then drove a route for Sunset Cookies in the Los Angeles area before taking his first produce job with Dole in January 1978. He did merchandising and sold mushrooms, pineapples and other products for Dole for about three years and then went to work at Coast Citrus in Los Angeles. From there, he went to work for Topco, becoming a manager for Topco in Los Angeles.

After returning to Coast Citrus for a time, Mr. Lipschitz went to work for Levy-Zentner, running that company's Reno, NV, produce house. "After that sold, I worked at Blue Anchor for about three years," followed by about three years at Sales King.

Mr. Lipschitz then took his 20 years of diverse experience to Hemphill & Wilson, where he worked for about nine years before accepting a position at Fruit Patch in 1997.

"The Fruit Patch thing was an opportunity, because you had to use all your skills from all the other jobs and try to put something together, starting something from the beginning," he said. Previously, Fruit Patch had used a company in Los Angeles to sell its fruit.

"My partner, Mike Weaver, and I worked pretty good together, building up the staff and getting Fruit Patch going pretty well," he said. "It took an awful lot of hard work and determination and trying to take care of the customers the best way we could" while at the same time "trying to do the best [we] could for the growers."

Mr. Lipschitz described Mr. Weaver as "a great salesman" and himself as "a good salesman," whose main strength was in organizing. "We both went out and got a lot of customers and built up the business, and it was kind of neat to see where we went" with the business.

The year before Messrs. Lipschitz and Weaver moved over to Fruit Patch to spearhead the company's new sales division, Fruit Patch "did like $32.5 million in business," he said. During their last two years at Fruit Patch, "we did between $154 million and $178 million in business, so it was nice for all that to happen."

That accomplishment required not only a lot of work but being "a little bit innovative," he said. "Some of the pack styles and approaches that we had were a little different at the time from what the industry was doing."

Mr. Lipschitz said that he expects to spend a great deal of time with friends and family now that he is retired. He also looks forward to doing a lot of traveling.