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Casazza, Higaki honored at FPFC Expo

ANAHEIM, CA — Apio's Mike Casazza and Harrison Higaki of Bay City Flower Co. were honored with the annual Fresh Produce & Floral Council produce and floral awards, respectively, at the FPFC's Southern California Expo, held Tuesday, July 16, at the Disneyland Hotel, here.

The 1,400 attendees were also treated to a rousing keynote address by former National Football League Quarterback Joe Theismann during the awards breakfast. Theismann preached a message of "embracing change and seizing the opportunities when they are presented. He relayed a story of how his career took a drastic turn during one Monday Night Football game when he suffered a compound fracture that ended his playing days.

Marty JoeMarty Craner of B&C Fresh Sales representing DLJ Produce, with former Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, who was the breakfast keynote speaker.At the time, which was the mid-1980s, he said he was an arrogant egotist heading in the wrong direction as a person. He was forced to embrace the change and he has carved a very successful post-player career. Today he owns, controls or is a partner in 14 different businesses.

Theismann urged the crowd to write down their personal, professional, spiritual and financial goals, and he is clearly a big believer in visualization as a path to achieving those goals. He told the crowd that enthusiasm and confidence are important keys and that he has never tasted failure, "only educational experiences that didn't go my way."

FPFC Chairman Casazza, who served as the emcee of the morning session, told the crowd it was the "best keynote address" ever at this event, which is more than two decades old, and the crowd clearly agreed.

Just prior to Theismann's speech, Casazza became the first-ever current FPFC chairman to receive the Norman H. (Buz) Bolstad Produce Award. Last year's recipient, Connie Stukenberg of CS Sales and Marketing For Results, cited Casazza's devotion to the industry, the FPFC and his family, and said he "firmly believes in the adage that a man's word is his bond."

The award is presented annually to an industry leader that is materially involved in both the success of the industry and the FPFC.

Casazza has had a long career of innovation for several companies, including Apio, where he has spent more than a decade and is currently the executive vice president of sales and marketing. His mark has also been left on the FPFC where he has worked to alter and improve several events and has been a board member and officer for a half-dozen years.

Casazza was surrounded by his family at the podium and said he felt truly blessed to have such a great family and be in such a great industry.

Higaki received the FPFC Floral Achievement Award, which was presented by last year's winner, Chris Robinson of The Pinery. Robinson said that Higaki is a "perfectionist" where "quality is job one." He said he has a passion for flowers and his innovative ways have changed retail floral. He added that he truly lives the company slogan, which is to "bring beauty to life."

"I am very touched and very moved at my core" in receiving the award, Higaki said. He called it a "deep privilege and honor to sell flowers," adding that while running a business is important, the true calling of the floral industry is to "enrich and bring beauty to the lives of others."