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Hockey fan Kevin Bartolotta says produce industry and sports brings people together

In 1991, Kevin Bartolotta, president and owner of Bartolotta Inc., in Torrington, CT, moved to Salinas, CA, to take a job with Stewart Packing Co., which was owned by LID Co. in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

“The San Jose Sharks hockey team was born that year, and I was a season ticket holder in 1992 and 1993,” said Mr. Bartolotta. “I left California in 1996, but I remained a devoted Sharks fan, relegated to occasional visits to games when they visited the East Coast to play the Philadelphia Flyers or the New Jersey Devils. In 2004, I met my wife, Angela, who happened to be a huge Boston Bruins fan. We started going to Bruins games on a regular basis, and bought partial season ticket plans a couple of years ago. This year they won the Stanley Cup in June, beating the Vancouver Canucks in game seven.”

Mr. Bartolotta said that one of the company’s vendors came from Quebec to watch the Stanley Cup finals, and he has met with friends in the produce industry at games he’s attended in Detroit, adding that a sport like hockey is the perfect venue for strengthening business relationships.

“And,” he added, “it’s the most exciting and entertaining sport to watch live.”

Bartolotta Inc., founded in January 2002, is a broker, distributor and logistics provider specializing in Western, Eastern and Southern vegetables. The company distributes throughout New England down to Philadelphia, and it does business in the Midwest, Toronto and Montreal. It specializes in field-grown vegetables and melons.

Bartolotta does not handle grapes, tree fruits or citrus, but that may change. “I just met with the East Coast fruit salesman for a company that sells a lot of fruit,” said Mr. Bartolotta. “And my family owns Klein’s Kill Fruit Farms in Germantown — in the Hudson Valley — New York. The business was founded by my grandfather in 1923, and today it is owned and operated by my cousins. Its primary commodity is apples, but it also produces peaches and plums. We plan to market fruit from the orchard this summer.”

Mr. Bartolotta is actively seeking a person to join Bartolotta Inc. to market fruit.

The company also plans to expand its role in retail. It currently services mostly foodservice operators, wholesalers and fresh-cut processors, while retail is a small part of its business.

In 2010, a long-time employee left Bartolotta Inc. Mr. Bartolotta mentioned it to a good friend, Jarrod Domingos, vice president of sales and marketing for Sunsation Farms Inc. in Monterey, CA. Mr. Domingos recommended that he speak to a college friend of his, Joe Garofalo, about the position.

“Joe had been in the car business since college,” said Mr. Bartolotta. “He managed a dealership that sold Aston Martins, Jaguars and Range Rovers in Newport Beach, California. He is in his mid-30s, and was looking to make a career change. But he wanted to stay in sales in a position that would reward him according to his performance. I made him an offer and he accepted. He moved his family to Connecticut and joined us in March. I like that he’s new to the produce industry so he can learn how we like things done.”

 

Garofalo-Joe-2011
Joe Garofalo, sales representative at Bartolotta Inc.
Mr. Garofalo attended Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA, where he studied agriculture business.

 

“Another friend who I went to college with owned a car dealership, and that’s how I got into the car business,” said Mr. Garofalo. “My wife, Alexis, and I were looking to move out of California, but I wanted a position with a brokerage company that would provide me with good opportunities. That I had sales experience was a plus. We moved to Connecticut with our three children.

“I like the produce business,” he continued. “It’s fast-paced, and I have good sales experience, so I felt it would be a good career move. There’s a big learning curve as far as products go, but my agricultural education is helping me considerably.”