May 5, 2021

Industry Spotlight: Mike Washington and Aaron Destefano, Warehouse Supervisors, G&C Foods

Life is full of dualities. Light and dark. Up and down. Yin and yang. There is balance to every equation.

DeStefano,-Aaron1.jpg
Aaron Destefano
DeStefano,-Aaron1.jpg
Mike Washington

At G&C Food Distributors, they have Mike Washington, who supervises inbound operations, and Aaron Destefano, who supervises outbound. Together they are responsible for G&C’s seamless flow of goods. Incorporated in 1976, G&C Food Distributors is a Food Service re-distributor of refrigerated, frozen and dry food headquartered in Syracuse, NY. They store and deliver—often next day—over 4,000 food items to meet the needs of customers in 28 states from Maine to Florida.

But talk to anyone who works there and the company is so much more than that. If you work at G&C, you’re committed to a way of life, to a culture of growth and learning, communication and opportunity.

Mike and Aaron embody that culture.

For so many in the foodservice distribution industry, last year was not only challenging, but unpredictable. Especially during the early onset of the pandemic, as states were shutting down and inventory sat untouched in buildings, G&C struggled with anticipating what was to come, how to protect products from expiration, and how to recover from the 35 percent dip in business during the first three weeks of COVID-19.

Thanks to the hustle exhibited by the whole team but especially Mike and Aaron, the dip didn’t last long.

According to Distribution Manager Cody Baker, part of G&C Food’s 2020 fortune is due to the masterful way Mike and Aaron managed their respective parts of the operation. After a challenging start, in the end, 2020 was a banner year for G&C Foods. Credited with an assist in that feat: the all-hands-on-deck spirit of cooperation that blurred job descriptions and stretched from the top levels of company leadership to the newest employees. 

“We wanted to be able to answer any call that came in and service any customer looking to do business with us,” Cody Baker recounts. “Our ability to pivot during uncertain times led to an outstanding year for the company. A lot of that is due to Mike and Aaron’s leadership.”

He credits Mike and Aaron and their unwavering dedication for G&C’s successful weathering of the pandemic. “There isn’t a single thing Mike didn’t do in 2020,” Cody boasts, noting that it was common for everyone to be everything needed in the moment, with no one staying in their lane. “Aaron likewise worked well beyond his normal capacity, juggling whatever challenges came his way, which could vary from day-t0-day, week-to-week in a way we’d never experienced before.”

“2020 was hard, but scrambling brought us together,” Mike notes. “The pandemic gave us perspective on how the world changes and how we need to adapt and change with it.”

The ability to put aside convention and greet challenges with a can-do attitude is underscored by how close team members are to each other personally. “The difference between G&C and other places I’ve worked is that here, we’re all friends,” Aaron says. “We’re in fantasy leagues together. Our families know one another. It’s not just work, it’s personal. So for sure, if Mike needs me to do something, I got his back. And I know he has mine. Our phone lines are open to each other 24/7, about work, but also about life.”

Aaron cites company leadership for nurturing the close-knit feeling he gets at work. “Everyone—including our President Rich Chapman and Director of Operations Diane Disanto—makes a point of getting to know all G&C’s employees. They ask about our families. They know us on a personal level. It’s not just about work, it’s about forging relationships.” Aaron came to foodservice distribution by way of Aldi’s warehouse, but even back in college, he always knew that his long term professional goal was to work in an industry with staying power.

“Everyone has to eat,” he jokes of his decision to get into foodservice distribution, while also emphasizing his love for the environment, the physicalities, the challenges posed by the industy.

“We want people to enjoy doing business with G&C,” Mike says of the client base that has helped G&C thrive. “Because the entire staff shares this goal, we operate with the mentality of a sports team. We have a camaraderie that makes it not only a special place to work, but means we’re like one large family where everyone’s voice is heard.” He came to the company after working for UPS, where he was a part-time supervisor. But he wanted a full time opportunity; a personal connection to Cody Baker helped him get in the door and eleven years later, he’s part of a dynamic duo the company couldn’t do without. “We do everything we can for each other. I want to help people even if it isn’t in my realm of responsibility. That’s not just work related. If someone is having a bad day at home or has a personal struggle, we talk, I listen. I give advice. G&C is like a second family.”

While operations are returning to normal, G&C is still finding business is busier than it was a year ago due in part to a larger customer base. “We stretched our wings. Took on western clients. We had to adapt to stay relevant,” Mike adds. “I’m proud I work here. And I know others feel the same.”

 

 

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