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Vince A. Ferachi, Capitol City Produce Co.

Vince A. Ferachi, who helped to grow Capitol City Produce to a nearly $80 million business providing fruits and vegetables to everything from fine-dining restaurants to offshore drilling rigs, died Thursday.

Ferachi, 83, was with the business his father started as it grew from a small warehouse on North Acadian Thruway to a 90,000-square-foot facility at the intersection of Interstate 12 and O’Neal Lane.

"Our inventory turns almost daily," Ferachi told The Advocate in 2016, shortly after Capitol City Produce broke ground on a $12 million expansion of its facility. "That's the secret of produce. We distribute."

Ferachi started working for Capitol City Produce in 1964 and became owner of the business a year later, when his father Vincent C. Ferachi retired.

During his first 10 years as owner, Ferachi bought out family partners and consolidated his hold on the business. In 1975, he brought his wife Suzy in as an employee. The couple did everything at the business from balance the books to drive trucks. Capitol City Produce was a family business. The Ferachi’s youngest son, Paul, took over as president and chief operating officer of the company several years ago. Michael, their eldest son, does legal work for the business.

Although Ferachi stepped down to turn the business over to Paul, family members said he put in 20 to 40 hours of work a week. He was helping out at the business a week before his death.

Capitol City Produce growing with the times

Paul Ferachi said his father built the business on four core values: Act with integrity always; take care of the team; quality matters; and be extraordinary in customer service.

Ferachi guided Capitol City Produce by following changing dining tastes. In the 1980s, the business quit carrying grocery items to concentrate on fresh fruits and vegetables. In recent years, Capitol City Produce started carrying items such as premium oils and vinaigrettes. The company even had a special van that visited restaurants and gave lessons to chefs on how to use exotic fruits and vegetables to liven up a dish or cocktail.

Ferachi was also instrumental in getting vegetable bars installed in local schools.

For his contributions to the local dining scene, the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society gave Ferachi the Grace “Mama” Marino Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.

Darin Arceneaux, president of Capitol City Produce, called Ferachi “a kind soul, a generous heart and a gentle giant.”

"Capitol City Produce suffers a great loss of our patriarch, our inspirational mentor, our balance beam in decision making and a reminder of our roots,” Arceneaux said. “He can rest assured that we will take care of the team and build upon generations of hard work, which was one of his last requests."

Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.