It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the recent passing of Larry Cantamessa, long-time industry expert and former President of PBAC and Associates, at 63.
Larry’s career with PBAC began twenty-seven years ago, when he joined Michael Posternak and Steve Bauer as a Sales Trainee. Over time, Cantamessa rose through the ranks, establishing himself as a talented producer, and thanks to his evident capability in leadership, became President and Co-Owner of the company.
Posternak, Larry’s former boss and partner at PBAC, as well as close friend, speaks on Cantamessa’s beginnings in the food service industry. “I met Larry some 30 years ago with Steve Bauer at a sales meeting conducted at Schaffer Foods, where industry legend Greg Sergin had started up an E&S division,” Posternak said. “Larry was Greg’s trainee and during this sales meeting I noticed that Larry asked a lot of good questions – he seemed, to me, to be very bright, and I thought, This is someone that we should hire sometime in the future.”
“Schaffer went out of business, and we hired Larry as a trainee and I mentored him, and eventually he became a partner,” Posternak continued. “He was our handpicked, hand-grown successor. His business persona was largely a blend of Steve and myself – I’m the people person, Steve’s the product person, but Larry was both.”
Cantamessa also helped shape the food service and manufacturing industries of Greater New York with his community service. He served as the Local Chapter President of MAFSI’s Region-03 New York chapter and continued his service as a member of the representative group’s National Board of Directors, a position he held for ten years. In honor of his dedication to MAFSI and food service representatives nationwide, he was presented with the MAFSI Pacesetter Award in 2016. His work also ensured that younger generations could pursue their culinary and hospitality passions, as he served as the Vice President of the Partridge Scholarship Foundation, an organization of tri-state area food executives dedicated to providing scholarship assistance to leading culinary institutions.
Some of those whose lives he touched – both professionally and personally – shared many of their fondest memories of Larry:
“Larry was authentic, warm and smart. He was the Reggie Jackson of PBAC; he stirred the drink and made things happen. I will miss Larry’s ever-present smile. Rest in peace, my friend,” shared Jim Klint, Vice President of Duke Manufacturing that PBAC has represented for decades.
Larry’s friend John Nackley Sr. of Metro shared these warm, touching sentiments: “Larry was a gentleman first and foremost. This was evident in the way he acted with family, friends and business associates and acquaintances. He always presented himself with a smile, a sincere handshake and substantive conversation. He seemed to me to be a complete man who kept the dimensions of life in perspective. In business, I always felt I received fair and honest input from him. We will all miss Larry. His passing is truly a loss for his family, friends, business associates and our industry.”
“I’m really at a loss for words. I’m deeply saddened by his passing. He was more than a colleague, he was a good friend,” shared long-time colleague Joe Maresca. “We worked together over my 24 years at Vulcan, and our collaboration grew as his leadership role became more evident, culminating with his being appointed President of PBAC. We had a very open and honest work relationship – no conversation was out of bounds. I will greatly miss his sense of humor, his ear-to-ear grin and the many times we spent together both socially and in the arena.”
“He is someone that you could instantly connect with,” added Amerikooler’s Gian Carlo Alonso. “We met at an FCSI event and I knew you could see what he brought to the table right away. The chance to work with him and the PBAC team and the legendary Michael Posternak is special. To me with Larry’s leadership, they are the best rep in NYC with their dealer and consultant relationships and knowledge of what is happening on the street. So positive and encouraging all the time, he will be missed.”
“Working with Larry for 20 years, I appreciated that he always led with his big heart,” shared Hobart/ITW’s Gary Simpson. “He was thoughtful, insightful, and direct – but also always ready with a wry smile and a laugh. He knew how to be earnest about the business, without taking himself too seriously. And despite all of his leadership successes, Larry’s loving focus on his family never faltered, often getting choked-up just talking about his girls. I will miss Larry tremendously but cherish his friendship and all he contributed to the industry.”
Larry forged deep relationships with many members of Metro New York’s dealer community. “Larry was one-of-a-kind. smart, ambitious, driven to succeed, he dove into life head-first and reaped the benefits,” noted Marc Tell of the Sam Tell Companies. “Many people can talk about Larry’s athleticism, Larry’s love for his family, the manner in which he worked hard for his customers, co-workers, and suppliers alike. And all of that would be true, and meaningful, and part of his story. Yet my memories of Larry are in the very real impact he made on my life.”
“Larry and I are the same age,” Tell continued. “Major life events aligned in a scary way, which made us laugh – marriage, career, children, success – and made us appreciate the other that much more. So many milestones we passed and then discussed, in far greater detail than we discussed our primary relationship – work. Yet work we did, and work hard, and work together. What we accomplished, alone and together, is astounding. We are at the time in our careers when “next steps” are part of many conversations. And that is where we shined. It was not unusual for my phone to ring at 6:30 AM, Larry on the other line, asking me if I’d had coffee yet before even saying hello, and then launching himself into a discussion laced with asides, detours, and the depth that came so easily. I miss those calls, and will miss them today and forever.”
“Larry was a great, fair, class act kind of guy – we continue to lose great guys in this industry – this is a big loss for the New York area,” added Singer/M Tucker’s Marc Fuchs. “What can you really say except for that he was a good, hard-working guy who cared deeply about other people?”
Posternak shared some more touching remarks about his long-time friendship with Larry Cantamessa: “I’m at a loss for words. I was very lucky to call him my partner… we made each other better. Larry was a colleague, a very close friend, my closest confidant, and Larry was like a younger brother to me. His passing is a huge loss to me, but more so to his wife Sarah, and more his daughters. Sarah was the love of his life, his angel – she never once left his side during the course of these difficult past few months.”
“Outside of the office, Larry was an active athlete, enjoying the rush of cycling, running, skiing, and physical training,” Posternak continued. “Larry is greatly missed and fondly remembered by his beloved wife, children and stepchildren, parents, sisters, and many, many friends. His indelible contributions to the food service industry – both as dedicated President of PBAC and as a volunteer – and to the lives of his friends and family, can never go unforgotten. We will miss you, Larry. Rest in Peace.”
According to his wishes, his funeral will be held privately. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to Memorial Sloan Cancer Center; or to the Partridge Invitation Scholarship Foundation at: https://www.thepartridge.org/donate.