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Two brothers add depth to Johnson Associated Fruit Co.

DENVILLE, NJ -- Every company likes its employees to add depth to the organization as it strives to better serve its customers. In the case of Johnson Associated Fruit Co. Inc., that depth has been supplied most recently by Gregg Johnson and Kevin Johnson, the two sons of company President Bob Johnson.

The produce brokerage company, founded by Bob Johnson in 1992 and headquartered here, buys f.o.b. from all over the country. Its customers are primarily wholesalers and small retailers in the Northeast.

Gregg, 25, joined the firm in June 2005; his brother, Kevin, 30, joined in October 2006. The two bring their own unique style and experience to the table.

After graduating from high school in 1999, Gregg joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2001. He was stationed in Hawaii and deployed three times, the first two times "all over Asia," he said, including Japan, China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea and Australia.

The third time he was sent to Iraq.

He spent seven months in that country, seeing action as part of the infantry. He rose to the rank of corporal in the Marines, and was honorably discharged in April 2005. He currently serves in the inactive reserves.

Asked why he chose to join the family business, he immediately cited three reasons. First, "it was an opportunity," he said. Second, he liked "the whole wheeling and dealing part" of the business. And third, referring to produce people in general, "I fit with them."

He is part of the sales team at the company. "I like the excitement," he said. "It's a good job."

As part of his produce education, he attended his first Produce Marketing Association convention in 2005, in Atlanta, as well as the most recent one in 2006, in San Diego.

Asked his first impressions of the PMA shows, he replied, "I liked them. I met some of the shippers I deal with, and I learned a lot."

He has been well received since joining the industry in 2005. "Ninety percent of the people have been fair with me," he stated. "Some people think you are too young and don't want to give you the time of day, but that's a very small amount. As long as you act mature and people think you can get the job done, that's what counts."

He continued, "People see me at Hunts Point at two in the morning, and they know I'm a go-getter - they can trust me. I'm ready to go and make phone calls in the early morning. People like that in a younger person. A lot of that comes from the Marines. No matter how hard this job is, it's nothing compared to the Marines."

And what is his experience working side by side with his father?

"I'm learning every day -- from my day and from others," he stated. "He knows the market. He knows everything. And people knowing I'm his son -- they were nice to me right away."

Working with his brother is proving to be an equally positive experience. "It's good working with him," said Gregg. "It's good to have somebody to rely on." He added, "I know how it feels to be new. We work well together, definitely."

Gregg is married three years to his wife, Johana. They live in Randolph, NJ, about five miles from the office. He is certified in scuba diving, and when not selling produce, he enjoys "going to the gym every day after work."

Kevin graduated from high school in 1995, then attended the University of Scranton, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in business management. He joined Lockheed Martin Corp. in 1997 as a financial analyst, and earned a master of business administration degree from George Washington University while working there.

However, "What I was doing at Lockheed was getting a little repetitive," he said. "I was also very interested in sales. This was by opportunity to get into sales."

So he, too, joined the sales team at the family business, although as might be expected with his background, "I also assist my dad in the financial aspects of the business."

And in the short time he has been at the company, his experiences have all been positive as well.

"I like it. It's a very interesting business," he stated. "It's very intense. More people interaction. It's very rewarding and exciting."

His transition to a full-time job in produce was perhaps made a bit easier because, like so many second-generation family members who join the family business, he grew up in it.

"I was always around it," he recalled. "My dad used to take me to the [Hunts Point] market when I was younger." So from his first day on the job, "It was almost second nature," he said. "A lot of the shippers' names" were [already] familiar.

Asked if anything surprised him about the business so far, he replied, "I didn't think it would be as intense as it is. But that's a good thing."

As to working with his brother, he said that "it's nice to be working with him," adding, "It's really strengthened our relationship."

Of his father, he noted, "Dad's a great teacher -- tough but fair. I've learned a lot from him in the few months I've been here." One thing about his father he learned immediately: "He has a great reputation in the business," said Kevin. "Because of his reputation, Gregg and I have been able to expand the business and build our own customer base."

Kevin met his future wife, Angela, while working at Lockheed Martin. They live in Ledgewood, NJ, about 10 miles from the office. They have a dog, Bailey, who "takes up a lot time," quipped Kevin, who counts biking as his favorite hobby.

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