2023 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: John Robert Tramutola III

Age: 31

Vegetable Salesman
A&J Produce
Bronx, NY

Hometown: Staten Island, NY
Hobbies: Making Films
Family/Community: Married, Child
Motto in life: Hard Work Pays Off.

Tramutola is a dedicated, determined, third generation family member entering his family business. He grew up in the A&J Produce business. As a young boy, he would go to work with his father, including during the night shift. When he turned 16, he started working summers at A&J as the foreman’s assistant on the fruit. Over the years, he worked about nine summers at A&J. After college and a few years pursuing an acting career, he supported himself in between acting assignments by managing a warehouse for a catering company, as well as working parties for them and loading and unloading catering trucks. Realizing he could do this for his own family’s company, he returned to A&J in 2017. He was soon promoted from fruit foreman to fruit salesman. After only a few weeks, he was thrown into becoming the vegetable door checker. He thrived and soon moved to second checker to head checker, then eventually to head foreman of the vegetable house. After about three years in the warehouse, he was promoted to salesman. After working from 2:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. for six years, he made a change to a daytime shift and became head vegetable salesman, and helps run the warehouse as well.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
The biggest challenge for me were the hours. As a produce wholesaler, we are open 24 hours a day, six days a week, to ensure we always have product for our customers. This means sales are typically done in the late hours of the nighttime for proper early morning delivery. When I started at 16 in the summers, I worked from 7 p.m. until 4 a.m. Instead of the typical fun-filled teenage summer nights, I had a different schedule because of work. Even though this was tough at such a young age, I didn’t mind because I learned early on the importance of a strong work ethic.

Q: What would you like consumers to know about the industry?
I would like the consumer to know that the business literally never stops. The market may be closed for around 24 hours, but there are many people who put in a lot of hard work and sacrifice a lot of family time to make sure that food gets to the consumer table. People are working around the clock to guarantee the freshest, best quality produce is always available.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?
Technically, it has advanced because of technology, however, less people are physically coming to the market (due to more business being conducted over the phone), which, in turn, is less volume going out. I’ve learned it’s more about accommodating the customer to the best of your abilities. In produce, and in many other industries as well, the customer used to need you, now it’s the other way around. In this ever-changing landscape, you need to learn to adapt to provide the best possible service to your customers.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
I am proud of the fact that I have been given the opportunity to work in multiple positions in multiple departments. In 2017, I came to work at A&J full time. I was very unfamiliar with the vegetable product, but I was willing and ready to learn. The way the veg house is run is very different from the fruit side, it was like entering a new world. I was thrown into the fire and came out alive. I went from second checker to head checker, and then eventually head foreman of the vegetable house. After about two to three years of working in the warehouse, I was promoted to salesman. As a vegetable salesman, I worked next to one of the best to ever do it, my father. I am fortunate to be a part of a family business and have really learned the ins and outs of running a wholesale warehouse.