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Cruz and Kendall honored at FPFC Expo

Rick Cruz of Pavilions supermarkets and Jason Kendall of Kendall Farms were honored by the Fresh Produce & Floral Council with annual produce and floral achievement awards at the FPFC Expo on July 16, in Anaheim, CA.

The event, which had more than 1,600 produce people in attendance and was held in the Disneyland Convention Center, featured National Football League star Hines Ward as the keynote speaker.DSC 0020National Football League star and FPFC keynote speaker Hines Ward.

Cruz, a longtime Southern California retailer who is currently the sales manager for Pavilions, was presented the Norman H. (Buz) Bolstad Produce Achievement Award by colleague Kent Kuwata of Smart & Final, who is also a past winner of the honor.

Cruz began his career as a produce clerk in San Diego County in 1977 before becoming a produce manager for Vons in 1982. When Vons, which is now owned by Safeway Inc., launched its Pavilions banner in 1985, Cruz was one of the opening produce merchandisers. Kuwata called Cruz a “fearless innovator” and noted that today “he still never stops looking for new ideas that will differentiate his marketplace.” Among his innovations was being one of the first to feature locally-grown produce and inviting growers into the store to speak to customers.

Kendall was presented with the Fresh Produce & Floral Council Floral Achievement Award by Marta Moreno of Rose Gonzales Plants, who was the 2018 recipient. She revealed that Kendall actually got into the flower business via the avocado. His father started Kendall Farms by purchasing a 50-acre avocado grove in Fallbrook, CA. Because of water concerns, the family farm switched to flowers, and eventually expanded the farm to 500 acres.

Kendall rebuilt the company after a devastating fire destroyed 75 percent of its production in 2004. Known for giving back to his employees and community, Moreno cited the firm’s “The Outreach Farm Project,” which provides a portion of the family’s land to local food pantries and rescue missions. Moreno quoted Kendall as saying, “We can’t compete with bigger companies, so we want to create a place where we can be impactful and make a difference.”

Ward, who was a star receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the National Football League for 14 years, said that “teamwork has been my foundation my entire life.” He said he doesn’t miss the grind of playing football but he does miss the camaraderie. “It’s the relationships that stick out to me.” He commented that in any endeavor teamwork is essential to achieve success. He applauded both Kendall and Cruz for their awards and noted that both men attributed their success to the people around them. Ward urged the crowd to set monthly goals to achieve their own success. He left the audience with the mantra that has driven his success over the years: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”