Six Questions for FreshPoint Dallas' President
Lucian LaBarba answers D CEO's questions about the produce market.
FreshPoint Dallas, owned by Fortune 100 company SYSCO, is one of 31 FreshPoint locations nationwide. The Dallas operation, which has annual sales of $145 million and is growing about 10 percent annually, provides fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and a line of groceries and frozen foods to high-end country clubs, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.
1. Tell us about FreshPoint’s origins.
My grandfather came to the United States from Sicily in 1900. He got a cart and started selling fruits and vegetables. He officially opened his business in the farmers market at Cadiz and Pearl streets in 1917, and was the first produce provider in the South who owned his own truck; he used it to bring back produce from California. I’m the third generation in the business.
2. I take it the family aspect of FreshPoint is still important?
My father and uncles spent a lot of time teaching us the business—the integrity aspect, customer relations, and how to treat our associates that work with us. Our company is one big family. When we talk about family, we’re talking about all of the associates that work with us. We have a big family of LaBarbas, but we also have a lot of associates who have been with us a long time who are family to us.
3. How competitive is the North Texas produce market, and how do you set yourself apart?
It is very competitive. We have some very good produce vendors that we compete with. That drives us to stay focused and work very hard to be better than the next company. We just never sit back and say, “Hey, we’re the greatest,” because we don’t look at it like that.
4. How did the recession affect your business?
I think that eating out in [Dallas-Fort Worth] is a sport. It’s an activity that is very constant for many people. It’s part of a driving economy, from our viewpoint. It seems that so many of our customers are doing great business. There’s this feeling that the restaurant business is off. But I think some people’s head counts are [just] down. We’ve had so many new restaurants come in, and we’re servicing so many of them … that keeps driving our business up. And we have tremendous support from the chef community. It’s a wonderful thing. But we work hard for that.
5. Who are some of your major customers?
[Chefs] Kent Rathbun, Dean Fearing, Stephan Pyles, Brian Luscher at the Grape, and Chris Ward at The Mercury. They’re not only customers, they’re good friends of ours.
6. What’s ahead for FreshPoint?
I think the next step is social networking. In our business, everything is immediate. So social networking needs to be a big part of our marketing as well as our communicating. We’re working on that. We’re also going to be doing a website that just focuses on the positive things that the restaurant community is doing.