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Enjoying a family business to the fullest

He graduated from college and went to work the very next day.

That was how Jason Sardilli recalled his official start in his family's produce company, Sardilli Produce & Dairy Co. Inc., where he works alongside his father, Don, and his older brother, Devin.

And although he hails from a produce family and "helped out" at the wholesale distributor in Hartford, CT, while he was growing up, his joining the company was never assumed or pre-ordained.

Jason Sardilli was born Oct. 3, 1975 in New Britain, CT. He graduated from Kingswood Oxford School in 1994, then attended Nichols College in Dudley, MA, where he earned a bachelor of science degree, majoring in business management, in 1998. "The day after I graduated college, I came to work, he said.

But "we were never forced to go into the business, he said of both himself and his brother. "We had a choice to do whatever we wanted. In fact, "My father forced us to work at other jobs to get a feel for other jobs and other bosses, he noted.

However, the allure of the family business surely ran deep within Jason and his brother, who are extremely close. The company was started by Jason's grandfather. Don Sardilli was one of six children, and the only one who continued in the business, noted Jason. "They grew it into a wholesale business.

Before joining the company, the two brothers shared their thoughts with their father, and after agreeing that the three men would forge a real partnership, as Jason put it, the two brothers decided to come into the family business, and have never looked back.

"It's been very successful, especially the last few years, said Jason. "We all get along very well. Jason is director of operations, Devin is sales manager and Don is president.

Asked if his relative youth presented any particular advantages or disadvantages, Jason replied, "I think it's helped, especially with the technology, as I minored in computers in college. So I was able to help the company in that regard.

But while college provided many of the tools he utilizes to keep his company competitive in the 21st century, Jason was quick to credit one person for providing a strong business foundation.

"My father taught us to always be respectful, to treat people like you like to be treated, to have good business ethics, he said. "I think it's all in how you carry yourself. My father taught us the do's and don'ts of the produce business. In this business, you learn every day.

Jason also enjoys working closely with Devin. "My brother and I are very close, said Jason. "We live a mile away from each other.

They are close in more than just distance. They married sisters.

Jason met his future wife, Mia, through Devin and his wife, Cathy. Mia works in marketing for an audio furniture company, Salamander Designs. The two were married in July 2002.

And as mentioned, Jason and Devin are extremely close. "We do everything together, said Jason fondly. "We play golf together. We spend holidays together. We're best friends.

Asked what he liked most about working at the family business, Jason responded, "You get challenged every day you come to work. You're faced with something different every day. The pace of the business is great, too, whether it's technology or dealing with people. And the fact that you never stop learning in this job. There are headaches, of course, but we really enjoy what we do here. We have a lot of fun.

Fun comes in other ways, too. Jason was very involved in sports while in school. He was an offensive tackle in high school and college and was named all-conference his last three years in college.

He even considered going to Europe to play football after college, although that obviously never happened. He also played lacrosse in school, and in fact was captain of his college lacrosse team for three years. He retains his love of that sport today and currently plays on local lacrosse teams once a week.

Asked to name other hobbies, he did mention golf, but he always returned to his number one passion: spending time with the family.