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Ingardia Bros. Produce co-founder Joe Ingardia was 87

Joe Ingardia Sr., who founded Ingardia Bros. Produce Inc. along with his brother Sam, died May 16, one month short of the company's 50th anniversary. He was 87.

Mr. Ingardia was born on Jan. 5, 1936, the second of five children of Pietro and Gaetana Ingardia, both from Sicily.

Mr. Ingardia immigrated to America from Tunisia at the age of 18 along with his mother, brothers Sam (Salvatore) and Larry (Lorenzo), and sister Marie (Maria). His father and his older sister, Kathy (Catarina), had come a year earlier to earn enough money for the rest of the family.

On June 16, 1973, Mr. Ingardia and Sam opened a retail produce and seafood store in Costa Mesa, and within days local restaurants saw the quality and pricing and asked if the brothers would deliver directly to their restaurants.

In less than 10 years the retail end was sold, and Ingardia Bros. Produce Inc. became a foodservice restaurant distributor in Southern California.

Mr. Ingardia was the buyer and loved to negotiate with every supplier. "The quality and pricing got us in the door, but the service we gave — no one could compete," said Sam. "We now service over 1,800 privately owned and operated restaurants in Southern California. Service is still our number one priority."

Mr. Ingardia was a true family man. He is survived by his wife, Susan, of 61 years; his sons, Joe Jr. and Chris, as well as their wives; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

"The Ingardia team at work will miss him dearly," said Sam. "He lived for his family and friends. I can truly say that my brother Joe lived a full, happy and wonderful life."

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