Historic black and white image shows interior of Jordano's, whih was known as the first 'cash only' grocery in Santa Barbara. A clerk stands behind a counter on the left.
Opened in 1915, Jordano's on State Street was known as the first 'cash only' grocery in Santa Barbara. Credit: Courtesy photo
Peter and Gerd Jordano
Peter and Gerd Jordano

Peter Jordano, CEO of Jordano’s Foodservice Division and a member of a Italian American family who opened their local Santa Barbara business 108 years ago, was the special guest speaker at a recent Montecito Rotary Club luncheon meeting.

A display of historic Jordano Restaurant photos and a Jordano truck replica were on display in the meeting room where Jordano spoke at the Music Academy in Santa Barbara.

Jordano, who is a past recipient of the Paul Harris Fellow Award, one of Rotary International’s highest honors, was presented an official Rotary Club of Montecito Banner by president Tony Morris.

Jordano was born and raised in Santa Barbara. Following a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps and attending school away from home, he returned to join the Jordano family business, which was at that time in great financial distress, he said.

Jordano was dedicated to creating a successful operation based on the motto “you sell better if you buy better.” According to his wife Gerd Jordano, who joined him at the Rotary event, “he saved the family business.”

From a simple beginning in 1915 (Jordano’s was known as the first “cash only” grocery in Santa Barbara, at 706 State St. where everyone shopped), it has become an award-winning food distributing company with $300 million in sales, some 500 employees, 10,000 items to deliver next day, and 61 climate control trucks. The company philosophy focused on generosity, making things better, and thinking of others.

“As the 35th largest independent food service operation in the U.S., distributing to clients from Monterey to San Diego, our business mission is one of loyalty, good prices, and the best service,” said Jordano said.

He talked about how important insurance and 401K programs had benefited his valued employees and helped them to retire over the years.

Jordano’s trucks can be seen plying the coast distributing to markets, large restaurant chains, and restaurants and markets in cities from Monterey to San Diego, including Santa Barbara, Solvang, and Santa Ynez Valley.

Although the Jordanos were at one time in the distilled spirit business, they gave it up 25 years ago, and today the distilled spirit business is all in LA.

Jordano recalled that one day while soliciting new clients for their Wine World Business, he paid a visit to Brooks Firestone.

“Suddenly during our meeting Brooks jumped up ran out yelling ‘the cattle are out,’ so I sat there for four hours waiting for him to return to close the deal,” Jordano said. “And it was worth it, they were a great customer, and today 805 Firestone Brew is the 17th largest micro brewing company in America.”

Asked about how new food and beverage trends and changing food needs and diets have prompted the company to adapt, Jordano said, “I am often unaware of many food trends, but the company always must adapt to meeting their customers’ needs.

“Whoever thought I’d be distributing a product called Hoppy Poppy?”

Many of the members in the room have worked alongside Mrs. Gerd Jordano over the years doing service and raising funds for charity. It was heartwarming to hear her response to a relevant question from the audience. Gerd Jordano responded to a question regarding the inspiration behind Jordano’s extraordinary kindness and charitable contributions both professionally and personally to support those in need throughout their years in Santa Barbara, to which she replied,

“We both feel we are blessed every day, and it feels so good to give back and help others whenever we are able, it’s really about community love.”

For more about Montecito Rotary Club, visit: www.portal.clubrunner.ca, Learn more about Jordano’s Food & Beverage Divisions at www.jordanos.com.