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The new generation at E. Armata wants to be just like generations prior

E. Armata Inc. has operated in the produce industry for more than a century. In recent years the company has completely renovated its facility, located on the Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market in Bronx, NY, to near-futuristic conditions — not the least of which are its elegant offices — under the guidance of company President Chris Armata and his brother, Paul Armata, who is vice president and secretary.

The renovated facility is not the only move toward the future for E. Armata. Chris Armata’s sons, Michael and Nick, have joined the company full-time. Like their father and uncle, they already have a presence in the company and are eager to ingest every detail about the business. Keeping it in the family, their sister, Chelsea Armata, works in the company as office manager.gen-x-armadaMichael-and-Chris-ArmataMichael Armata with his father, Chris Armata, president of E. Armata.

Nick, now 30 years old, started working for the company when he was around 17, hanging out with workers and stacking product.

“When I turned 17 and received my driver’s license, I started working during the holidays and breaks from school, which lasted throughout the course of my academic career,” he said. “I graduated from Johnson & Wales in Providence, Rhode Island with an associates degree in food and beverage management and an associates degree in business management. I graduated on a Wednesday, moved back home by Friday, and started my full-time career in E. Armata on a Sunday in May 2009.”

It was an easy decision for Nick. He was 5 years old when he first went to work with his dad. “It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen,” he recalled. “The power jacks, forklifts, trucks and especially the chaos, which interested me more than anything, were great. One day it just occurred to me I would join the family business.”

He noted that three generations before him had brought the company to where it is now, and he couldn’t be prouder to be a part that lineage. Pride and dedication aside, Nick still has time to enjoy other aspects of his life.gen-x-armata-Nick-Nicole-LuigiNichole Schirmer and Nick Armata with Luigi, their bulldog puppy.

In September, Nick proposed to his girlfriend, Nichole Schirmer, a paralegal at a law firm. The engaged couple moved in together and fell in love with a bulldog puppy they named Luigi. While the puppy is a handful, Nick also manages to find time for his personal hobbies.

“Boating and my motorcycle are my favorite hobbies,” he said. “My family has been boating for the past 25 years, and it’s been a summer hobby for most of my life. And I’ve always wanted a motorcycle, so after a few years of saving after college I bought a Harley Davidson. Nicole and I enjoy going for rides on the weekends in search of restaurants we haven’t yet tried.”

Michael Armata is equally passionate about working for the family business. He started working there when he was about 10 years old during summer vacations.

“My father always told me if I wanted something, I had to work for it,” he said. “So, when he finally let me come to work, I was ready. I would sweep floors all day. I was fascinated at how tough and how much fun a work environment could be. It’s funny, but I came home owing the company money every day. Somehow my bagel cost more than my daily pay. But that was OK, because I was learning something new every day.

Eager to learn all about the business, Michael, 26, joined the company full time at age 20, after two years in college.

“I noticed a rapid change in the culture of the produce industry and did not want to miss a beat,” he said. “I believe if you want to be great at something you have to live it. I try my best every day to do my job better than the day before. I love learning from everyone; from the person sweeping the floor to the one on the forklift. They are all a piece of the puzzle that creates E. Armata.”

The many variables in produce fascinate Michael, such as when professionals can sleep, eat and the amount of leisure time they have. He tries to keep his lifestyle functioning as normally as possible, but admitted, “Sometimes it works out and other times not. It’s just all part of the business.”

Michael is also passionate about motorcycles, and has been since he was very young. “Maybe it stems from the backyard jumps my brother and I made to launch our bicycles over when we were young. But I’ve always loved riding after a long day or week to help me unwind. My bike almost feels like an extension of me. I decided everything I wanted on it and love to tweak it to make it uniquely mine.”

The brothers agree that coming to work every day is a joy, and they love working with their family. “We have a lot of laughs,” said Michael. “I like to joke around and make people smile. Sometimes a simple joke that makes getting killed on a load just a little bit easier to bear. What’s the sense of doing something if you are miserable?”

Nick is equally spirited with good humor and family closeness. “Our family is very close outside of work,” he said. “We do many things together. It’s important that we don’t just work with each other but that we also have fun together. I have very strong male role models, including my father and uncle, who are always there to teach me. These are relationships I cherish deeply.”

They are also close-minded on the future of the produce industry. Nick believes food safety is the biggest challenge today, and as time passes everyone will be held accountable for the way produce is handled.

“The time is right around the corner when neither wholesalers, retailers and processors will be able to purchase produce from someone who is not Food Safety Certified,” he stressed.

Michael agreed, saying, “With the industry changing there are always new tasks we need to tackle. Food safety is something we at E. Armata focus on now and will into the future. We also need to understand technology is changing, even how we load the product will change at some point. We all read about the future of drones and autonomous cars, and I think it can be a double-edged sword. What about truck drivers who need to feed their families? We need to make changes to be more efficient, but we also need to be very aware that the changes we make can drastically affect many people’s lives.”

They also agree about their closeness with their father, and they love learning from him every day. They both find him a great role model, and they strive to be like him, in business as well as in his personal life.

Like their dad, they too want to be known as honest, fair and always up for a good laugh.