Gary Caneza had an unusual upbringing. He recalls the hard work of his mother packing garlic with his dad in their basement at night with him alongside until he was 3 or 4. He spent time traveling the country in a car with his five siblings stopping at grocery stores passing out garlic flyers to help grow his father’s hopeful business.
From walking the garlic fields at 8 years old to getting embarrassed by being picked up from high school in the garlic truck, Gary has always been surrounded by the family business. Sometimes, even literally, like when important equipment was lost in a New Orleans hurricane in 1965, where the Spice World headquarters was until 1981, and the garlic packing had to be carried out in Gary’s bedroom. As he puts it, “There were garlic feathers all over. I had it everywhere, on my clothes and shoes. I’d even go to school with feathers and garlic in my bag!”
Watching and working alongside his father helped create the work ethic and passion that Gary still demonstrates today as a member of Spice World’s board of directors. He also picked up on the genuine way his father treated people and customers. From the neighborhood women who helped him pack garlic in the early days, to the first six people hired for Spice World, who ended up working with Spice World their entire lives.
Gary goes further, saying, “My dad always treated the people who worked for him very nicely, and I learned that early on. We sincerely care about everyone who works for us and have a genuine interest in their kids and lives outside of our company. We would do anything for our people, and they would do anything for us. We’ve always had great people in our company.”
As a kid, Blake Buddendorff was fascinated by Spice World’s warehouse floors, careful process, and, of course, his grandfather (and founder) Andy Caneza’s work ethic.
From pretending to be an employee in childhood games Blake eventually worked his way to the Master Planner at Spice World. Today, he works closely with his brother, Austin, on all things fresh and peeled garlic, to ensure our customers always get the best quality and service..
Much like his grandfather, Blake has fondly worked his whole life for Spice World, and as he puts it, “Every time I step into this building, I can feel the presence of my grandpa still here. Every time I look down at the Spice World logo, I think of him and how great of an opportunity he left us to be able to carry on his legacy.”
And, it’s no wonder Blake calls his grandfather his hero and role model, saying, “He worked for everything he had in life and was our biggest supporter in everything we grandkids did growing up. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t miss him, but his legacy is alive and well.”
From playing “pretend work“ as a kid in the family business, Austin Buddendorff now purchases and manages all raw material garlic for Spice World. Everyday he sees a photo of his grandfather and founder, Andy Caneza, in the lobby of the Spice World office and uses it as extra motivation and a reminder to work hard. As Austin puts it, “He built the company on good quality and service, and I think everyone at Spice World does a great job of keeping that spirit alive today.” He sees carrying on his grandfather’s legacy is part of his job description. Even going as far to say, “I am thankful for everything my grandfather and uncles taught me because without them I would not be where I am today.”
Our very own Andrew ‘Drew’ Caneza carries much more than just the namesake of his grandfather and founder, Andy “Pops” Caneza. Drew embodies “Pops” passion and commitment to quality and strong customer relationships.
He started work in the family business at just 11 years old, and quickly found himself doing various jobs around the warehouse. Whether it was stacking boxes of quality garlic from floor to ceiling in a truck for delivery, organizing or helping out with a variety of other needs, it was all just considered part of the job in the family-run business.
Today, Drew is Vice President of Sales having earned his position through hard work and commitment. He has always placed a great deal of focus on building strong customer relationships by delivering on their expectations with Spice World’s commitment to quality. Drew says, “I love building and maintaining good connections with our customers. I feel a strong sense of pride in our brand because it’s one my family built and nurtured over seven decades.”
Drew also sees his job as an opportunity to carry on the 3rd generation legacy of his family, saying, “Pops preached family first, and because of that, we had a very strong family philosophy and atmosphere both in and out of work. Everyone was always treated and trusted as family. Pops always gave me the motivation to push forward and strive to be better tomorrow. I am proud of the Spice World family and appreciate all of our associates who work so hard to make what we do the best in our industry.”
Ernesto Perez has been with Spice World since 1994. He started out as a truck driver in charge of local Florida deliveries, and his passion for our people and products has been his trademark ever since. Ernesto has always been an especially strong advocate for Spice World’s quality, he has always focused on ensuring customers were fully satisfied with their order. As Ernesto’s career grew, one day, he received a call from Gary Caneza (the son of founder “Pops”). He asked Ernesto to become even more involved with the business. Ernesto gladly took the chance, even telling “Pops” he would study and learn as much as he could about garlic, to which “Pops” responded, “Ernesto, you don’t study garlic; there are no courses on the subject. You’ll learn by working with it everyday.”
And this is exactly what he did. From performing quality assurance work on-site at the Sequoia Packing warehouse in CA, to traveling overseas to seek out the world’s best garlic growers and to learn about how they approach growing. Above all, Ernesto loves being a part of the team, saying, “I enjoy going out to our fields and working with the team. I like getting into the fields and getting my hands dirty. Anywhere I can jump in, I like to help.”
Ernesto embodies all that “Pops” instilled in the Spice World culture: to treat people the way you want to be treated, have passion for your customers and products, and always do what you say. Many inside the company quietly refer to Ernesto as a “garlic whisperer” because of his vast knowledge. He is proud of that nickname and grateful for the opportunities he had to learn and grow. His dedication and passion makes Spice World, and the people who work here, special.