For produce seller, business honors dad’s memory

| September 23, 2010 | 0 Comments

Paul Piazza Sr., president and owner of Minnesota Produce, Inc. in Minneapolis, holds a photograph of his late father and role model, Richard Piazza. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Years ago, Paul Piazza made a pact with his brother: Never would they sit at a desk selling produce like their father.

After college, Piazza, determined to forge his own destiny, found work in the stained glass trade.

Then, a funny thing happened. Upon hearing that a sales position had opened up at his dad’s company, Minnesota Produce, Inc. in Minneapolis, Piazza inexplicably found himself applying for the job.

After a year and a half, Piazza, still resisting the idea of working for his father, left the business to take a job as a graphic artist. It wasn’t long before Piazza realized he had made a mistake. “I totally suffocated,” he said. “I knew immediately that I was in the wrong place.”

Piazza’s father welcomed his prodigal son back with open arms.

Later, Piazza noticed his father had written in the company books that he had taken a temporary “leave of absence.”

“He knew all along that somehow I was destined for the family business,” Piazza said with a laugh.

Like father, like son

Perhaps the elder Piazza predicted his son’s behavior because he saw so much of himself in his son.

“My siblings love to tease me that I was cloned and not begotten because they think that I’ve so closely paralleled my father’s life,” Piazza said.

A framed black-and-white photo of Piazza’s father, now deceased, sits on a cabinet behind Piazza’s desk, as if he were looking over his son’s shoulder.

“I like the photo because it pictures him with his headset on, pencil in hand, ready to write a customer’s order,” Piazza said. “He’s with me every day in the office.”

Keeping the family business going strong is something Piazza feels he owes his father.

“Since I became the sole stockholder of the company, I’ve never really considered myself to be the owner,” Piazza, 58, said. “I still think of this as my dad’s company, even though he’s been dead for 12 years. I consider myself to be a steward.

“The company has to be successful,” Piazza added. “If it wasn’t, it would somehow be adverse to the Fourth Commandment because, to me, this is honoring my father.”

Putting people over profits

Like his father, Piazza believes his responsibility as an employer extends beyond his employees to their families, his nominators wrote.

“Even during the current economic struggles, he has kept full benefits for the employees and their families at the cost of the company,” they said.

When Piazza has to make difficult decisions, he relies on divine providence and his father’s example for guidance.

“What I always saw my father do was exercise the golden rule,” Piazza said. “He never asked anybody to do anything he wouldn’t do himself, and he always considered how he would feel if he were the employee asking the employer for something.

“I’ve adopted that as my own management style,” he added. “The golden rule is my business plan.”

Biography

  • Title: President and owner of Minnesota Produce, Inc., Minneapolis
  • Parish: Our Lady of Lourdes, Minneapolis
  • Spouse: Marilyn Piazza
  • Children: Paul Piazza Jr., Frances Rivera, Richard Piazza
  • Activities: Helped start parish council, lector, extraordinary minister of holy Communion, parish renovation committee, helped start liturgical ministry team at parish

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Category: Leading With Faith