Tommy Wilkins, who has worked with United Supermarkets produce buying department for about two decades, left the firm Aug. 2 to seek a new challenge. A spokesman for the firm confirmed his departure and said it had no prepared statement with regard to an announcement about his replacement.
Wilkins told The Produce News Aug. 20 that he has been working with United Supermarkets since it left a wholesale grocery distributor in the early 1990s.
"At the time, United asked me and my father to establish a produce-buying operation for them," he said. "We did that for about 12 or 13 years [through Wilkins Genova Inc. in Lubbock, TX] before I joined them physically [as an employee] about seven years ago."
At the time of his departure from the retailer, Wilkins was the director of produce procurement.
"They are a great organization and I wish them only the best, but I'd say we are both looking for a new chapter in our lives," he said.
Wilkins added that United Supermarkets has a new generation of leaders in place to take the organization to the next level, and he expects to "find a new challenge where I can make my next partner very happy."
Prior to establishing the buying operation with his father in Lubbock, Wilkins worked in California with Cal Fruit Nobility, both in the growing and sales end of the San Joaquin Valley division of the old Cal Fruit Co.
"My wife and I understand that this move will no doubt involve leaving Lubbock, as there isn't a whole lot going on here [in the produce industry]," he said. "We are wide open for our next challenge."
He said he has no geographic or job description constraint, having worked on both sides of the buy-sell equation, and he is open to any opportunity around the country.
"My son is finishing up his last year of law school and already has a job, so we are open to moving," he said.
Wilkins is currently a member of the board of the Southeast Produce Council, and recently finished a two-year stint on the retail board of the United Fresh Produce Association.