Longtime Sargento employee documents 65 years of family ownership in new book

Author Tom Faley and Sargento CEO Louie Gentine to speak at family business event June 14

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Tom Faley, communications manager at Sargento Foods Inc., spent seven years researching, recording and piecing together the story of the Plymouth-based company that was co-founded in 1953 by Leonard Gentine, and has since been passed down through three generations of family ownership. 

The story, which spans almost 100 years, is now documented in “Treated like Family,” Faley’s newly published book. The biography details the life and entrepreneurial spirit of Gentine, and the company’s evolution from a small cheese shop to a multimillion-dollar, national cheese company.

“Treated like Family” begins with the story of Leonard, a native of Milwaukee and the son of a French immigrant, who launched Gentine Funeral Service in Plymouth in his mid-20s.

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It details his numerous entrepreneurial ventures that eventually lead him to a partner with Joe Sartori to start Sargento Cheese Co. Sartori later left the company to lead his own family’s cheese business, which later became Sartori Co.

The book ends with the story of the company’s transition to its current third-generation leader, Leonard’s grandson Louis Gentine II (Louie). 

Louis P. Gentine II

About 14,000 copies of “Treated like Family” have been printed, and 3,000 of those copies were given to Sargento’s employees– 2,100 and counting– and retirees. When new employees join the company, they are also given the book on their first day.

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A 30-year employee of Sargento, Faley has worked alongside all three generations of the company’s Gentine family leadership– Leonard, Lou and now Louie, the company’s CEO.

Both Faley and Gentine will speak at BizTimes Media’s annual Family & Closely Held Business Summit on Thursday, June 14, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Italian Community Center, 631 E. Chicago St., Milwaukee.

Deb Houden

They will share insights, lessons, philosophies and stories about three, and potentially four, generations of Sargento Foods. Discussion topics will include the importance of a value-based corporate culture, keeping company ownership in the family, servant leadership, and Leonard’s famous philosophy, “Hire good people and treat them like family.”

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The Family & Closely Held Business Summit will also include a presentation by Deb Houden, senior consultant for Chicago-based The Family Business Consulting Group. She will talk about how to build the underlying foundations of trust and transparency to help create and sustain a successful family business.

The presentations precede a Q&A session and three 25-minute roundtable discussions that will be based on 14 family business topics and led by expert discussion leaders.

Click here to register for the event.

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