2020 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Brandon Bentley

Age: 36
Category Business Manager–Vegetables
Tops Markets
Williamsville, NY

Bentley started as a cart associate for Tops Markets in 2001 while in high school. After graduating, he continued to work full-time while attending college night classes. He was an assistant produce manager during one of the company’s largest remodels ever completed while staying open. By 2007, he was one of the youngest produce managers ever promoted and began moving to manage ascending volume stores. In 2015, Bentley was recognized as the United Fresh Produce Manager of the Year. He also became a key trainer for perishables and other company initiatives, managing impeding time lines with large groups of associates from the company. He proceeded to open ground-up builds and become a liaison to company mergers.

After being promoted to store operations management in 2016, Bentley oversaw 165 associates in a grand opening setting. He finally returned to his produce roots when he was tasked to be produce specialist, leading 31 stores in teaching, training and mentoring with respect to merchandising and department operations. In mid-2016, he became the category business manager of fruit, where he was able to extend his knowledge of the intricacies from the corporate side managing more than 170 stores. After a two year run as a CBM of fruit, a vacancy arose to round out his bottom-to-top retail produce career as CBM of vegetables. His industry professional accomplishments include Tops East Region Produce Manager of the Year 2015 and graduating from the Cornell University Executive Development Program 2017. Bentley also spearheads company involvement in the annual Golisano’s Children’s Hospital Golf Tournament and has coordinated the Farm to Fork initiative on behalf of Tops Produce. He coordinates fresh produce donations to charitable causes such as Taste of Buffalo, Taste of Syracuse and Taste of Rochester, and Tops 5k Run for Roswell.

Hobbies: Golf, Driving, Family Board Games, Outdoor activities

Personal/Community: Married, two daughters

Motto in life: “To lead the people, walk with them.”

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
Growing up in a farm community like Kendall, NY, the job options were pretty scarce. I could have worked as a dishwasher at the local watering hole or taken advantage of the local Tops Markets. The only job they had available at the time was a cart associate. My dad always told me if you are going to do something “do it right,” so I always came in early and asked for more work on my days off. Store management began to move me to multiple departments as a helper and then presented me with the options of overnight baker, meat clean-up, or produce. I was used to seeing fresh meat and I did like donuts but the beauty of produce made it an easy answer. Where else can you paint such a pretty picture? I knew I wasn’t an artist, but I sure could create a work of art with the colors of fruits and vegetables.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
I am proud of the relationships I have built and the ability to get product in a time of need for our customers. Even saying something like “our customers” is vague. These customers are your friends, families and neighbors and because of the values I was brought up with, I am able to keep them supplied with fresh fruit and vegetables during this unprecedented time.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?
Produce is a give and take industry. Everyone in the food chain needs to make money and being a bully is not good for business. Always asking to lower FOBs or to take more new products on will eventually result in cracks in the relationship. It is those relationships that are the true core to being successful in this industry.