2023 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Joshua Gatcke

Age: 26

General Manager and Head Fruit Buyer
Nathel & Nathel
Bronx, NY

Hometown: Glen Cove, NY
Hobbies: Golfing, Skiing, Cooking, Finding the Best Pizza in NYC, His dogs
Motto in life: “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” —Henry Ford

Gatcke is the fourth generation to lead Nathel & Nathel. He grew up in the company, working there during high school and college break from Georgetown University. He spent many hours in the warehouse, unloading trucks and building orders, in the fruit and vegetable department, in sales and in trucking. After working for a boutique consulting company in Washington D.C., he returned to Nathel & Nathel at a pivotal moment. He was an integral part of the transformation and re-organization of the administrative, sales and buying operations. He guided and led management and seasoned veterans to a new way of thinking and operating without losing the edge or the trajectory that Nathel & Nathel has carved in the last 100 years.

Upon his return to the company in 2020, he started buying limes and mangoes and quickly expanded to buying avocados, citrus, stonefruit, grapes, apples, and pears. In 2021, he officially took on the role as general manager to support his father in leading the business, with the vision of modernizing the company to better meet the needs of a dynamic customer base. He introduced digital technologies to improve operational efficiency and marketing capabilities with customers. However, his discreet, day-to-day role still revolves around helping manage the fruit department. During his tenure with the company, the fruit department has seen sales growth of over 20%, and there has been significant fixed cost reduction and trucking department streamlining.

Q: What led you back to the produce industry?
After graduating from university in 2019, I worked for a consulting company in Washington D.C. When the COVID pandemic begin in the early 2020, I began advising my dad, Ira Nathel, on how to best manage the situation and ensure the company and its employees were appropriately protected. During this process, conversations began about what else I could do within the company, and I made the decision to move back to New York. My colleague, Hernan Brave, and my dad have been instrumental in teaching me the finer details of the business and are a constant source of wisdom and knowledge.

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?
Despite the fact that we sell commodities, this is an industry run through the value of one’s relationships. Having previously worked in large corporate companies where my role was largely research-driven, I found it very challenging to transition to a role that is about managing people and relationships. Day-to-day success in this business is achieved by learning how to read an individual on the other end of a phone, making decisions on the fly, and knowing what to say and how to say it.

Q: How has the industry changed during your tenure?
Even though I have only been in my role as general manager at Nathel for a short time, we have seen a lot change since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This year, I wrote an article for Produce Business describing the need for wholesalers to embrace a service-oriented business model. But, this need is present across the industry and isn’t exclusive to wholesalers because all levels of customers (from large national retailers to small single store owners) are demanding this from their produce suppliers. Within our company, we have seen an explosive demand for online ordering services, better delivery systems and turnkey marketing support.