ANAHEIM, Calif. — Bill Coombs, owner and president of DLJ Produce Inc., Long Beach, received the Norman H. “Buz” Bolstad Produce Award at the Fresh Produce & Floral Council’s annual Southern California Expo.

About 1,700 mostly store-level employees turned out for this year’s expo on July 18, where about 250 produce and floral suppliers touted their products from nearly 200 booths.

National Football League Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen served as speaker at the keynote awards breakfast.

The Norman H. “Buz” Bolstad Produce Award is named after one of the founders of the FPFC and honors a member who has shown distinguished leadership within the produce industry and the council.

In bestowing the honor, last year’s recipient, Rich Van Valkenburg, partner and chief operating officer at Van Valkenburg and Associates LLC, Capistrano Beach, said Coombs began his produce career at age 14, working at his father’s side.

He later was hired as a produce clerk at Smith’s Food & Drug Centers, where he quickly was promoted to manager and supervisor.

Eventually, he was named director of produce and operations, overseeing more than 100 stores in Utah, New Mexico and California.

In 1966, he signed on as a salesman with fledgling DLJ Produce, and he became managing partner a year later.

Under Coombs, DLJ has grown from a small brokerage to a national shipper of fresh produce, Van Valkenburg said. The company also developed a 50,000-square-foot cold storage facility — Pacific International Cold Storage and Pacific Packing.

“Throughout its growth, he has maintained DLJ as a dedicated supporter of the fresh produce industry and a reliable partner of the Fresh Produce & Floral Council, providing event sponsorships and personnel to our board and committees, ensuring the FPFC’s ability to continue its mission,” Van Valkenburg said.

Coombs also supports several local charities, including the Orange County Food Bank, the EJ Jackson Foundation, Hope for Heroes and Catarina’s Club.

He has received City of Hope’s Spirit of Life Award and FoodFinders’ Annual Volunteer Award.

Lane DeVries, president and CEO of Arcata-based Sun Valley Floral Farms, received the FPFC’s Southern California Floral Achievement Award.

Once again, this year’s show was a sellout, said expo chairman Sean McClure, national procurement director of specialty produce for Ready Pac Foods Inc., Irwindale, Calif.

Changes are in store for next year’s expo, he said.

Education sessions are planned for store-level produce and floral staff, and senior retail executives will be treated to a buffet dinner, hosted bar and an exclusive hour on the Soarin’ Around the World attraction at the Disney California Adventure Park.

The expo floor also will be redesigned to make it easier to visit more booths, he said.

Next year’s show is scheduled for July 17 at the same venue — the Disneyland Hotel.

 

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