Bill Wilkinson, a San Francisco foodservice wholesaler, died Monday, July 19,
of melanoma at his home in San Francisco. He was 68.
At the time of his death, Mr. Wilkinson was co-owner of Greenleaf on the San
Francisco Wholesale Produce Market. He bought the company in 1993 and
built it into one of the top suppliers of produce, especially to the hotel
foodservice industry, which was his first love.
For a quarter of a century, Mr. Wilkinson ran some of the top hotels and
kitchens in California and worked with some of the state's better-known
chefs. He opened and ran Campton Place in San Francisco and helped found
the famous and elegant Checkers Hotel in Los Angeles.
Greenleaf was one of his suppliers in 1993 when he invested in the failing. He
soon took over ownership and built it into a thriving business. On a weekly
basis, he would invite both chefs and small produce growers into the facility
on the market to allow the growers to showcase their products to the top
chefs. He is credited with introducing many specialty produce items to the
restaurant industry in San Francisco and, in fact, his company sponsored a
popular food news segment on a local radio station for many years.
In the San Francisco area, Mr. Wilkinson is considered one of the founders of
the local food movement. However, he was also an astute produce wholesaler,
handling product from all over the world.
Michael Janis, president of the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, told
The Produce News, "Calling Bill an innovator doesn’t even begin to tell the
story. Bill’s leadership at the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market will be
sorely missed, and his significant contributions to the industry will be felt for
many, many years to come. He was truly a unique individual that found great
success in the hotel business and was able to transition very successfully into
the produce industry. He took a company that was not doing very well and
turned it into a major powerhouse on the market."
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Mr. Wilkinson was born in the
Bronx, NY, and raised in Yonkers, NY. After graduating from Paul Smith’s
College in New York with a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant
hospitality, he took a job with Restaurant Associates. He served four years in
the U.S. Navy, where he worked as an interpreter and intelligence clerk. After
the Navy, he worked at the Waldorf Astoria in New York before joining the
corporate offices of the Intercontinental Hotels.
In 1976, Mr. Wilkinson came to San Francisco to run the Stanford Court Hotel
on Nob Hill, and within the next decade, he had opened both Campton Place
At the time of his death, Mr. Wilkinson was a member of the board of
directors of the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market.