"Our approach is not to reinvent the wheel, but to refine it,” Chase Tatham, Vice President of Sales for Tom Lange Company-Atlanta, tells me as we work toward identifying the focal point of the strategy that drives the team behind The Tom Lange Family of Companies. “We want to provide the highest level of service to our customers and pass along the benefits of the relationships with our growers and freight carriers for generations to come.”
This is a company on a mission. The Tom Lange Family of Companies has made it the team’s purpose to simplify fresh food for its customers, provide full-circle service, and complete the entire production, distribution, and logistics ecosystem when it comes to produce. The company has been working hand-in-hand with customers through Lange Logistics, Seven Seas, and Tom Lange Company to offer customized programs to customers around the globe.
Trevor Powell, Vice President of Sales for Lange Logistics-Atlanta, and Chase are two of the leaders emerging to steer the six-decades-old family of companies as it grows to offer impeccable service.
Both Trevor and Chase are relatively new to their VP positions. Chase came to his current role after longtime executive and board member Eric Hoffmann announced his retirement from the day-to-day operations of the company last year.
“Since the transition from Eric’s retirement, the sales approach continues to focus on procurement with an emphasis in foodservice and wholesale,” Chase shares with me. “The foodservice industry is ever-changing with many different buying groups managing costs for corporate concepts.”
“We work together, we are involved in charities together, and we play off-hours together.”
—Trevor Powell, Vice President of Sales, Lange Logistics Georgia
The company provides value by working with each contracted program to create efficiencies in loading and to maximize the drive time each day. Additionally, Tom Lange’s commodity managers are well posted and use volume to bring down the costs for each customer.
And Trevor is heading into uncharted territory as Lange Logistics’ first Vice President of Sales in Atlanta. And though the position, almost by definition, offers an unprecedented challenge, Trevor tells me it is one that is not at all out of step with his 18-year career with Lange Logistics.
“There hasn’t been a VP for Logistics in Atlanta, so I really don’t have a model to work from, but I never have in my whole career,” Trevor explains. “Lange Logistics was my first job out of college 18 years ago. We have built up a successful business based on hard work, honesty, and following through with what we have promised. I want to send a message to my office that we are a team, not a collection of individuals. I feel if we all help each other, we can build a better base of customers and drivers, all while improving our quality of life.”
The idea that Tom Lange is more than just a collection of employees is something that both Trevor and Chase emphasize.
“Tom Lange is not only a family of companies but a family of people. When working here you feel a certain respect and responsibility to every associate involved with this company,” Trevor says. “It’s about more than yourself. I have close friends in every office in this company. You remember that notion when you are put in the position to ‘do the right thing’ even when it is the more difficult option.”
Chase echoes those sentiments.
“Tom Lange's company culture doesn't solely focus on its business values; it also emphasizes the importance of community and generosity,” says Chase. “Our annual Charity Golf Tournament allows us to raise money for great causes and enjoy a few days with our peers from across the country. Each year, I feel a sense of gratitude by seeing the impact we have on children's lives, and I thoroughly enjoy a couple of days spent socializing with suppliers, customers, and other coworkers.”
It’s an ethos that has effects throughout the company culture. Those effects are felt in the industry at large and the communities in which Tom Lange operates.
“We work together, we are involved in charities together, and we play off-hours together,” Trevor adds. “It’s a great company to work for, and I only hope my kids could be so lucky.”
That comradery is at the origin of the Tom Lange Family of Companies’ story.
“Our approach is not to reinvent the wheel, but to refine it.”
—Chase Tatham, Vice President of Sales,
Tom Lange Georgia
In 1960, the Tom Lange Company was founded by Partners Tom Lange, Farrell "Dutch" Gay, and Paul Beisser.
Four years later, Phil "Rock" Gumpert, Tom Lange’s current Chairman and CEO would join the company, eventually taking over for Paul when he retired in the early 1970s. It was this trio of Tom, Dutch, and Rock who would take the Tom Lange Family of Companies from humble roots on the St Louis Produce Market to international success. Described alternately as a “fierce trio” and “three wise men,” the team would usher in a six-decade-long trajectory of continual growth and achievement.
They did so with aplomb, expanding operations, leaping hurdles, and surpassing milestones at every turn. In 1981, the company adopted its first employee stock ownership plan (ESOP)—becoming entirely employee-owned by 1987.
Around this same time, Tom Lange Company adopted the role of produce distributor, taking title of its produce and working to make the purchase, sale, and distribution of product a single seamless process.
In 2000, Tom Lange would further expand by acquiring Seven Seas—a move that would both cultivate Tom Lange’s presence abroad and broach the growing side of the industry.
A couple of years later, recognizing the need for greater vertical integration, Tom Lange would launch a full-service, multimodal, non-asset-based transportation company specializing in over-the-road through the U.S. and Canada. The project was dubbed Lange Logistics, and it began operation in 2002.
Tom Lange Company grew into the Tom Lange Family of Companies, at one point operating as many as 12 separate entities under the Tom Lange banner. In 2016, following a comprehensive rebrand spearheaded by President Greg Reinauer, Tom Lange united its various parts under three divisions—Tom Lange Co., Lange Logistics, and Seven Seas—all operating under the Tom Lange Family of Companies rubric.
The Tom Lange Family of Companies currently operates 18 offices in the United States and three international offices, servicing over 30 countries around the globe, and it does so guided by the same principles upon which it was founded.
Rock Gumpert describes those principles as such: “When I came to work for this company 55 years ago, Mr. Tom Lange made it very clear to me there was a code of ethics in the industry. Your word is your bond, and when you tell a customer or shipper something, you had better honor that commitment and damn well do it. The same holds true today, just as it did then. Tom Lange Family of Companies continues to honor those principles of trust, honest ethical business dealings, and service to the industry.”
And while the sense of camaraderie that Trevor and Chase describe is a big part of Tom Lange, the company is not without its competitive edge. A sales office might relish its team mentality, but you would be hard-pressed to find a sales office in this fast-paced industry that isn’t without a sense of competitive drive.
“The uniqueness of the Tom Lange Family is derived from the autonomy given to each employee to better themselves within the company,” Chase tells me. “Each account manager sees the fruition of their labor daily. The competitive spirit keeps everyone on their toes and creates a unique environment that balances teamwork and friendly competition.”
It’s with a passion both cooperative and competitive that the company forges ahead, building a familial environment and a team of leaders that can operate and excel in our competitive industry.