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L.A. wholesaler Jimmy Iwamoto dies at 68

James Hideo Iwamoto, a long time Los Angeles produce wholesaler, died on Dec. 5, after a short battle with COVID-19. He was 68.

Mr. Iwamoto was the son of Jimmie Iwamoto, a longtime produce buyer for the Vons supermarket chain when it was independent, and the father of Jimmy Iwamoto, who has also spent his career on the wholesale produce market, currently working for Valley Fruit & Produce Co.

James Iwamoto with his son Jimmy
James Iwamoto with his son, Jimmy.

The younger Iwamoto said his father retired from the daily grind of the wholesale produce business several years ago after spending more than 40 years in the business with a handful of companies including, Cal Fruit, Crown Produce, Potato Sales, Brostoff-Celle and Davalan Sales Inc.  “He grew up in the business because of my grandfather. He started from the ground up, working on the docks before becoming a salesman,” said Jimmy Iwamoto. “For most of his career, he was head of sales for melons and tree fruits.”

Iwamoto said his father had many grower and shipper contacts in California’s San Joaquin Valley with many friends and colleagues in the Reedley and Fresno growing regions. “He was also one of the first Los Angeles wholesalers to bring Chilean fruit into the Los Angeles market,” he said. “In fact, he was on the front page of the Los Angeles Times in March of 1992 for a story on the Chilean deal.”

At the time he pioneered that connection, he was with Cal Fruit on the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. Iwamoto said his father retired from the day-to-day grind a few years ago, but then had a very active consulting career working with several local produce businesses for three to four years until he retired completely in the middle of 2019. Mr. Iwamoto and his only son worked together for more than a decade as Jimmy came to work for his dad in 2008 at Brostoff-Celle and also followed him to Davalan Sales.

The end came quickly for Mr. Iwamoto as he first showed symptoms of COVID-19 the day after Thanksgiving, was admitted to the hospital a few days later and died within eight days. “It was quite a shock,” said Jimmy, who is his only immediate relative.

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In preparation of Cinco de Mango, the National Mango Board is offering a limited number of themed display bins to U.S. mango shippers on a first-come, first-served basis.
 
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