Beyond the Boardroom

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Lou Bertolini

Author: Alexandra Russell
July, 2015 Issue
In 1967, Lou Bertolini and his brother, Larry, started Western Farm Center in Santa Rosa. “Growing up on a 20-acre vegetable farm, my family had several breeds of animals—poultry, rabbits, pigs, horses, cows, dogs and cats,” he remembers. “Our father, Aristide Bertolini, instilled in us children the importance of feeding and care of animals. Occasionally, he’d remind us, ‘Before you sit down at the table, make sure all the animals have been fed and watered.’”
Since Larry’s passing in 2012, Lou has carried on as sole proprietor of the business. Asked what he likes most about it, he answers, “being in a position to be of service to people—customers and employees. I enjoy teaching employees how to implement company policy: Have product knowledge, listen to the customer, learn how we can help them, and treat the customer with the same respect you’d like if it were you.” Sounds like a winning strategy.
Did you go to college?
I enrolled at Santa Rosa Junior College in September 1950. In November that year, I enlisted in the Army Air Force during the Korean War. After the war, I lived in the Lake Tahoe area for four years before deciding to move back to Santa Rosa. I enrolled and graduated from Empire College of Commerce, majoring in accounting.
Did you ever have a nickname?
Yes. It was “Tick Tock.” During my junior high school days, my family picked several fruit and nut crops during the summer in Sonoma County. One of the owners gave me the nickname because of my quickness at harvesting the products.
What do you love to do outside of work?
It used to be flying my own plane. Now it’s golf. Additionally, I love working with soil planting and nurturing a beautiful organic garden.
What’s your favorite dessert?
Blackberry pie with vanilla ice cream
Are you more of a dog person or a cat person?
I like the interaction you can have with a dog. They’re responsive to your actions and you’re always the center of their attention.
Describe your perfect day.
Breaking 83 on the golf course then having dinner with my sweetheart.
What do you do to get yourself out of a bad mood?
If possible, I’ll talk to someone about an interesting topic. If alone, I’ll read the comics or some good-humored jokes. I’ll also think about how much good is around me. Smile first, and you’ll get a smile back.
What do you consider your best quality?
Listening to people. I believe the best conversationalists are listeners. My management style is to explain, not reprimand.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
For a few years, I was a pit boss at a Lake Tahoe casino. And I owned a caramel corn shop in Santa Rosa.


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