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Rising Stars

"We are both former athletes and we take the term ‘team’ very seriously,” Andrew Amodeo, Sales, Catania Worldwide, says. “We work together to become the best at everything we do, from quality to customer service.”

Brian Lapin, Andrew’s counterpart in sales at Stellar Distributing—a part of the Catania Worldwide company—concurs. While Brian took to the field and played baseball throughout his life, Andrew found his place on the ice rink with hockey. Both sports require a deep dedication and collective mindset partnered with passion and heart—elements that make for a good team dynamic.

Each day, they work hard together to gain an edge—and you might think this would result in a rivalry. But I soon learn that, for Catania and Stellar, produce is a team sport, and Brian and Andrew are the young core of an international sales unit—the Splash Brothers of produce distribution, to use my favorite sport in an analogy. I’m trying to expand beyond sports, but the metaphor doesn’t immediately come to me.

It’s on a mild day in Madera, California, that I hit on the appropriate image. Catania is a family—figuratively and, in many cases, literally.

As a fourth-generation operation, Catania Worldwide is all about family. And like other families, Catania grows. It gains new members and strengthens through cross-generational bonds. Ideally, a family forms ties with the community; it improves the lives of others and helps forge those bonds of community between the individual and the outside world.

“We work together to become the best at everything we do, from quality to customer service.”

—Andrew Amodeo, Sales,Catania Worldwide

That ideal family is the kind that Catania strives to be—one that empowers its younger members and admires its elders—that strives collectively together rather than against each other and dedicates itself to values like service and community. It’s that familiar environment that is evoked when Brian and Andrew express their admiration for the company’s leaders.

Andrew notes that Paul Catania Jr., CEO of Catania Worldwide, has been an indispensable asset to his career. A third-generation leader, Paul has worked hard to inspire his team and continue the pioneering tradition of Michael Leonard Catania—the Founder of Catania who first brought counter-seasonal California produce to Toronto in 1929.

Andrew Amodeo relishes his career as he surveys a Catania warehouse“He’s taught me the ins and outs of the business, how to be a great leader, and his knowledge of produce is so extensive that I learn something new from him almost everyday,” comments Andrew.

Brian echoes these sentiments when he speaks about Kurt Cappelluti, Operations Manager for Stellar Distributing, Catania’s California-based company.

 

“He eats, sleeps, and drinks produce,” Brian remarks. “He teaches me how to be sharp, and his dedication has become a huge motivational factor for me.”

That Brian and Andrew have so much admiration for Catania’s leadership is no fluke. In Kurt and Paul Jr., the two rising sales stars see a reflection of their own values—dedication, wisdom, and humility. I want to come back around to sports, but I struggle. Is Paul the Steve Kerr and Kurt maybe Andre Iguodala? Who is the Andrew Bogut? It’s fine. It’s fine. I’ll stick with family.

And, though Andrew and Brian may not have the lifetime worth of experience that Catania’s senior leaders bring to the table, they’re already inspiring others with their passion and diligence.

Stellar Distributing is responsible for the logisitics of Catania’s main export, figs

“Andrew and Brian are two pillars in our sales department,” Marketing Coordinator Lila Baig explains. “Their dedication is infectious and is illustrated in their quality of work.”

Like Paul Jr. and Kurt, it seems, Brian and Andrew are inspiring others and following in the footsteps of their forebears.

The Catania leadership team has, over the course of several storied careers, developed an exceptional level of expertise and a list of impressive accomplishments—turning Catania from a single brokerage company into an expansive, international, vertically-integrated enterprise.

Catania first established Stellar in 1992—when Paul Catania Sr. and Paul Jr. assembled an experienced staff and hired Kurt to manage day-to-day operations for the new company. Stellar’s winning combination of the Catania family’s multi-generational experience in the produce business and Kurt’s background in fresh figs, kiwifruit, and international sourcing, resulted in Stellar Distributing, which quickly became a major force on the international produce scene.

Through the creation of Stellar, Catania Worldwide was able to expand its family.

“Stellar is our California hub. It both allows us to reach our customer base in the West, and it allows us to grow persimmons, kiwifruit, and figs,” Andrew explains. “We don’t handle a lot of commodities. We specialize in growing, importing, and distributing a limited amount of commodities, and we’re good at it. Our focused model makes us strong and informed in what we do.”

“He [kurt] eats, sleeps, and drinks produce. He teaches me how to be sharp, and his dedication has become a huge motivational factor for me.”

— Brian Lapin, Sales, Stellar Distributing

And, Brian describes, by striving together, the two operations have been able to grow not only their own scope, but the produce categories in which Stellar and Catania thrive.

“We handle two of the strongest growing commodities for Catania, and our ethos has become to strive to make these commodities stronger for us,” says Brian. “We take pride in what we do, and we work together like a family.

Andrew agrees. The two up-and-comers on Catania’s sales team share a similar background, a competitive edge, and a dedication to getting things right.

When I ask Andrew and Brian what’s next for Catania, they are on the same page: growth in both their currently established companies and markets—and in new and emerging regions through new facilities like those in McAllen, Texas, and Vineland, New Jersey.

“New Jersey has enabled us to develop in the Northeast, and we have expanded our commodity offerings and other new opportunities. We are hoping to replicate this for McAllen,” details Andrew. “As Catania Worldwide expands, we want to be able to better service our southern states. It will allow us to store, dock, and pack the fruit we import from our own fields in Mexico. It gives an extra quality control checkpoint, which will help us give better quality fruit to our customers that pick up FOB. It also helps us to expand into more markets we are currently not in and gives us the ability to sell smaller or larger orders of fruit.”

The company is also entering a prime time for Stellar Distributing, with California fig season set to take a strong Mexico crop and keep a good thing going.

“We are proud of our accomplishments with fresh figs,” shares Brian. “We have supply all year round, with quality and taste, which not many companies can offer. Currently our Mexican season has been received well, and we are hoping for a strong California fig season.”

Father and son, William and Kurt Cappelluti, in Madera, California

And, of course, Catania’s commitment to its employees, its customers, and its community extends beyond the bounds of produce supply. The two companies are actively involved in a number of local charities in Central California and Southeastern Canada.

“We love to work with local charities and help our community. All our companies work with the philosophy that giving back is important,” Brian tells me.

In Toronto, Catania works with Street Beat, Smiles of Innocence, and Second Harvest. In the States, the company works with local schools, sponsoring little leagues and local churches and, of course, the Hinds Hospice.

Hinds Hospice has been the beneficiary of Stellar’s Annual Capp/Pow Memorial Golf Tournament in Madera, California, an event that, for 25 years, has encapsulated the familial spirit with which Catania and Stellar operate.

With an impressive assortment of arch-salable fruit, the nigh-unparalleled expertise of their senior leadership team, and bright stars like Brian and Andrew following in that team’s footsteps, Catania Worldwide and Stellar Distributing are poised to shoot for the stars, now and for generations to come.

One could say, this family striving together is thriving together.