Written by Nissa Pierson on behalf of RCF Distributors and El Grupo Crespo
As many of you know, we suddenly lost our dear friend, colleague and paramount sales agent, Alan Alvarez, on Saturday, January 30th, 2021. El Grupo Crespo: RCF Distributors, Crespo Organic Mangoes, Empaque Don Jorge and hundreds of mango industry friends now mourn the loss of our beloved Mango King alongside Alan’s wife and three children.
This Mango King was built the old-fashioned way, through really hard work and strong relationships. Early on in his career, Alan’s mango customers took notice of his marvelous talent for moving large volumes of fruit. Customers that had started out buying just a few pallets were eventually buying truckloads after being Alan’s customer. They eventually deemed him the Mango King due to his knack for excelling in the mango business. He was a builder of business because he was a builder of deep caring relationships with people.
He was incredibly good at his job and did in a way that seemed natural and easy. People liked him, trusted him and, more importantly, trusted their mango and fruit needs with him. This is very rare in the conventional commodity world – and especially within gigantic commodities like mangoes and citrus, which were his specialties. He handled his business with grace, humor and the utmost proficiency. He consistently made doing business with him easy and fun.
I asked Scott Chodnoff, Key Account & Commodity Manager for Carbamericas Inc., who was a long-time client and friend of Alan’s, if he could reflect a bit on the impression Alan leaves behind in him and this is what he said.
“Alan Alvarez was truly one of the good ones in this industry. I met him back in 2013. For the next 8 years, we connected daily on the phone. Alan was one of the fairest people in the industry, and he was a problem solver. I credit a lot of my success to him and that is only the business side of my story with Alan.
“We spent many years getting to know each other personally, as is the case with doing business with people daily. We had a lot in common. Both married with children, two of which were heavily involved with travel baseball. We both coached baseball and we both loved to travel with our families. When we were done talking mangoes, we always had something else to talk about whether it was our kids, sporting events, a trip we were going on, how bad my Raiders are or how his Astros cheated to win the World Series. Or tequila, we loved to talk about our shared love of tequila!
“You could always tell what a giving person he was in both talking to him and seeing how much he gave back to his wife, children, and the kids he coached. Last summer, our team was supposed to play in the big Cooperstown Dreams Tournament. We received a package in the mail one day addressed to my son from Alan. When we opened it, it was a brand new, top of the line Rawlings Heart of the Hide baseball glove for my son to play with in the tournament. My son couldn’t believe it. It’s the best glove he has ever owned. We didn’t get to play the tournament due to Covid-19, but my son uses that glove everyday at practice and in games.
“That’s just the kind of guy Alan was. He did things for people, not because he had to but because he wanted to. He was a very caring, giving soul. I miss talking to him on the phone everyday like you wouldn’t believe, but he has left an impression on me that will last a lifetime.”
Scott’s words reflect who Alan was, a mango seller and a person…
Beyond just selling a significant quantity of mangoes, he also brought a significant amount of (mango) joy wherever he went and with whomever he interacted, just as Scott notes. This was a key part of the Mango King title and surely what made him a spectacular (business)person and relationship-builder within the industry. He had unlimited joy and unlimited positivity. His vibrancy and magnetism was unparalleled in our business, and you could not help but feel happy around him. He made work feel wonderful (mind you this is the kind of work which otherwise can often make us feel beaten down). His laughter was contagious.
In the words of his sister, Annette Alvarez, “My little brother was a special kind of person. If you knew him, you loved him and It was that simple. ( or “Así de fácil,” as Alan would say.) He really was special, and everyone that encountered him knew and felt this instantly.
I can see his infectious strength and positivity at work in all of us: his family, friends, the Crespo family, his co-workers and customers, all of whom seem so resilient during this significant loss. It’s pretty amazing to witness as his (mango) joy lives on in all of us. He leaves us with the will to be the best we can and to move forward with our own version of his Mango King success.
The Crespo family is now tasked with the seemingly impossible duty of grieving and totally restructuring in the same breath. While mourning his loss and celebrating his life, we must ensure the solid foundation that Alan laid out for us in his ten years with RCF & the Crespo family remains intact and grows, as he had planned.
Alan started working in McAllen for El Grupo Crespo (RCF Distributors) in around 2012. He worked alongside Jorge Crespo his first season, and the following season Jose Angel moved to McAllen to manage it full-time with Alan at his side.
Eventually Alan and Jose Angel both moved their families to McAllen, and the business and families merged as well, as is the Mexican tradition of family and community and taking care of each other.
Jose Angel and Alan were planning a big future from the get-go, and the duo made for a powerful pair. Side by side Alan and Jose Angel built the business from scratch – new customers, products, logistics, warehouse… all of it. Each year they set new targets and goals, and year after year they have exceeded them.
Their wives were close (and still are) and the families were inseparable in many ways. They were not only deeply intertwined in their work together, but their personal lives were built in tandem . For Jose Angel, like many others, this is a deeply personal loss. Jose Angel shared with me that he genuinely admired Alan – the way he boldly lived life, the way he enjoyed each precious moment of his time here, and, in particular, his dedication to and love for his family. They were “compadres.” This year, the duo had big plans for growth. They were excited about the season ahead, knowing this was going to be a good year. There is a particular feeling that lofts through the air throughout the company these days that says that this season’s success is for Alan.
This loss is heavy for everyone. It’s hard to convey just how much. There is this desire to move forward with the work, as he would have wanted everyone to, to push forward with positivity as he did. But it’s equally difficult to sit with the loss.
One of the most bittersweet aspects is the legacy he leaves behind in his son, Alan Jr., who has been working under his father’s wings at RCF for the past 4 years. Alan was a family man above all, and it came as no surprise to anyone that he wanted his son to work alongside him, learning the tricks of the trade, the customers and the complex dynamics of growing, packing, shipping and distributing fresh produce, especially that of Mexico.
When I asked Alan Jr. what he’s learned from his father, he points to the amount of time his father dedicated to making sure that things got done correctly and, despite a significant amount of problem solving that had to be done so often, Alan Jr. points out what an easy person he was to work with. “He was incredibly straightforward in his approach to making sure things were done right and people responded well to him. Problems were always solved and people always felt good.” I think we all know how rare this is in produce, as in life.
Alan Jr. will continue to walk deeper into his father’s footsteps with this current season, and we can all feel the simultaneous beauty and difficulty in witnessing that feat. “He was my idol and role model and, unfortunately, one doesn’t realize how much we really love and appreciate someone until they’re gone. I’ll love and miss him forever, that’s for sure. My work at RCF keeps him close.”
It’s impossible to describe how difficult it is to marry the fast-paced, adrenaline generating, hardened business of produce with the soft and slow process and nurturance of grieving. Yet, we must try. The Crespo family’s commitment to their customers, consumers, and the hundreds of people that rely on the complex growing, packing, shipping, selling and marketing systems that stretch from the southern regions of Mexico all across the USA and Canada remains unwavering, even in the midst of the gigantic and collective grief everyone carries. Alan would desire nothing less from his team, from his mango family.
This challenge will take a lot of work, compassion, empathy and understanding from all, especially at the onset of such a big season. It will take collective effort from all of us at RCF and in El Grupo Crespo and it will take the support of our mango industry. Make no mistake, these are hard times from the business angle and even harder from the family and friend angle. The Crespo family remains committed to the time and attention it will take for their loved ones and mango communities to grieve such a big loss. We mourn and move and grow all in the same breath, as we must.
As his son Alan Alvarez, Jr. said, “When all is said and done, what I am going to do here at RCF, as well as in my everyday life, is try to keep his extraordinary legacy alive and thriving, to bring honor to his name by doing things the right way, the way he taught me, with integrity.”
RIP Mango King!