Joe Klare’s passions in life are simple, and they’ve been a constant throughout his life. At 62, he credits faith, family and his career to be the driving forces in his life.
“As far as achievements in my life, it’s been God, my family and my work,” he said, referencing how thankful he is for his wife, Linda, and their seven children and 12 grandchildren.
Of course, he’s also thankful for the opportunity to have spent the entirety of his career with one company.
Originally hired by Robert Castellini, chairman of Castellini Co. LLC, Wilder, Ky., in 1971, as a salesman shortly after finishing high school and a stint with the U.S. Army, Klare is now the executive vice president of the company.
In 1995, he started to head up all sales for the Castellini group of companies. Since then, sales have nearly tripled with Klare at the lead. Klare also became a large part of diversifying the company into many areas, such as processing, transportation and service wholesaling.
“I bought and sold as much produce as anyone in the wholesale business,” Klare said.
He credits much of his success to spending his career with a company that simply appreciated honest, hard work.
“When he hired me, (Castellini) said he didn’t know much about me but that he’d heard I was a nice guy, so he gave me a shot. I’ve been there my whole life now,” Klare said.
That consistency in his career gave Klare the unique opportunity to have Bob as a constant mentor and friend.
“Almost single-handedly, my mentor has been Bob Castellini. He hired me almost 42 years ago, and I learned the business his way, and he certainly knew the way,” Klare said.
Those feelings of respect are mutual.
“Joe is extremely passionate about his work. Combine that with the fact that he is possibly the most knowledgeable produce sales and distribution executive in the U.S., and you’ve got a superstar,” Castellini said.
The passion Castellini speaks of is clear after a few minutes of conversation with Klare, who has seen the industry evolve over the years. He is especially excited to discuss the changes being brought about by the younger generation.
“Youth is the key to our success,” he said, referencing the technology that comes with the new generation of workers.
Klare is also quick to brag about the sense of sincerity and sense of teamwork he sees in the industry.
“Back then, we would shake hands at the end of the day and that would be the end of it. A deal was a deal, and that sense of trust is still there today,” he said. “It’s what makes us unique.”
Of course, when asked to choose just one area of the industry that excites him the most, Klare struggles as one asked to choose a favorite child.
However, it’s clear he’s most thankful for being part of the Castellini success story for so many years.
He’s also grateful for the plan of succession that he’s seeing in the industry.
“Seeing a group of experienced people transition their knowledge to the future young men and women of the industry is a passion of mine,” he said.
He’s also excited for the other side of that succession.
“It excites me to see my friends retire and go on to enjoy good lives while the young people move forward.”