Produce wasn’t a career goal when Garry Bergstrom started working at Publix Super Markets in 1972.

Like many who find a career in this business, Bergstrom, 61, was studying a different track.

“I was in college studying medicine and needed a job at night,” he said. “The lights were on at Publix and I started in the produce department that very first day.”

By 1975, Bergstrom made produce manager, and progressed to merchandiser, buyer, director of the company’s Lakeland, Fla., division, and corporate purchasing manager.

He was named business development director of produce/floral in 2005, a title he’s had since then.

Bergstrom said his career was shaped by many in the Publix family, particularly Allen Barock, former director of produce and floral for the Lakeland division.

“Al was kind of a tough guy, as many were back then,” Bergstrom said. “He had high expectations. If I could put my finger on one thing he taught me, it’s that he was all about the details and making sure we did the right thing for our customers.”

Bergstrom says his philosophy at Publix is always about the customer.

“I want our customers at Publix Super Markets to see a differentiated quality,” he said. “I want the flavor to wow them. It’s really wonderful when we can find a product that the industry can provide that wows a customer.”

Paul Keating, category manager for Publix, said Bergstrom thinks strategically, and long term.

“I have been in the business a long time and Garry is one of the smartest people I have ever worked with,” Keating said. “I always kid him and tell him he missed his calling. He has superior negotiation skills when dealing with vendors. I tell him he should have been a prosecuting attorney.”

Keating said Bergstrom is dedicated to both sides of the equation.

“He wants nothing more than to provide our customers with the freshest produce at a fair price,” Keating said. “If you work hard and add value to Publix, Garry will do all he can for you.”