2024 40 Under Forty Winner: Christian Vega

Department Director
Galera Fresh
Chicago, IL

Age: 30
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Hobbies: Racing Cars, Formula 1
Family/Community: Married, 2 children
Motto in life: Defeat is always momentary.

Though he grew up in the family produce business, Vega worked for over four years as a diesel mechanic until one day in 2016 his father, Jose (Pepe) Vega Sr., called him to join the family business. He began immediately at La Galera in sales. Trained and guided by his family, he rose through the ranks of sales. In 2018, he was thrown into buying — required to take over his father’s responsibilities after his sudden death. In the eight years that Vega has been tasked at the management level, his influence has taken La Galera to a whole new level. Since 2018, he has grown the mango commodity by 66%.

The overall creation of the fruit department in 2020 was a major personal goal. The department encompassed the mangos that he had already grown, but also included citrus, stone fruit, grapes and apples. In just three years, these programs were built from being nonexistent to making La Galera one of the biggest fruit suppliers in Chicago. In 2019, Galera Fresh acquired additional space, which logistically allowed for additional commodities. As the director of the fruit department, Vega’s duties include both procurement and sales, and making educated market projections to minimize shrink. He succeeded in creating an environment of innovation for the sales team. As the need to become a more inclusive wholesale produce provider grew, Vega decided to import pomegranates in 2021. Today, Vega manages eight different commodities and Galera Fresh is known as one of the largest imported mandarin suppliers.

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?

I was lucky enough to be introduced to the industry by my father. He was a pioneer in discussions for the exportation of avocados from Michoacan, Mexico, to the U.S. He had established great relationships with some of the best produce growers in the industry. After my initial introduction, I was hooked by the way he conducted business. I wanted to carry on his legacy and take it even further. He’s no longer here with us, but I know he’s proud of what I have accomplished.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?

I wish I knew that resilience and perseverance are key. Reaching your goals isn’t an overnight accomplishment, but rather a journey where you appreciate both the setbacks and the triumphs. Not every day will be great, and sometimes you’ll stress to the point of illness, but hard work pays off. I wish I knew to extend myself some grace, and that you can only control the controllable.

Q: What is the one thing in your business that you are most passionate about?

I’m passionate about specific commodities: citrus, pomegranates and mangos. I’m also passionate about maintaining excellent, personal relationships. I talk to my growers, shippers and customers every day. I create personal relationships that make business feel like life, not just work.

Q: What would you like consumers to know about the industry?

I wish consumers understood the pride and effort that goes into getting quality produce. I am picky about the growers we work with; we want to be known for having the best. From farm to fork, every step is essentially crafted to ensure perfection.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?

I would tell anyone starting in this industry that if they have thick skin and center their focus on relationships, everything else will fall into place. Be a team player and be genuine — this industry respects transparency and honesty.