Robert "Bob" Bassetti, Former Owner of B&B Produce, Passes Away
HAMMONTON, NJ - A produce great recently passed, leaving behind a legacy of innovation and love for the industry. Robert “Bob” Bassetti, Owner of B&B Produce, passed away peacefully in his sleep on September 15 at the age of 83.
From a young age, Bob Bassetti brought his infectious enthusiasm to everything he tackled. He was the oldest child of James “Big Jim” and Dolores “Tootsie” Bassetti. At the age of 16, he joined the Army National Guard and served for seven years. After graduating from Sacred Heart High School in Vineland, New Jersey, he started a popular local barbershop and developed strong friendships and relationships across South Jersey.
His career began at R&B Produce, a partnership owned by his father and his uncle John Ruggeri. After his uncle’s passing, Bassetti eventually left R&B in the mid-70s and went on to start B&B Produce with his partner Richard Bacigalupo. After that, Bassetti eventually became the sole owner and had locations in Hammonton, New Jersey, and Benson, North Carolina.
Known as an innovative and forward thinker, he developed the first microwaveable wrappers for steaming sweet potatoes. His passion for produce was palpable, as many said he lived and breathed the business. Eventually, Bassetti expanded from sweet potatoes into blueberries and worked with Driscoll’s.
“It wasn’t always easy working for a produce legend,” commented Bassetti’s daughter Melanie Heath, who worked with him for 17 years. “He moved at a high speed with a relentless passion for his work. Dad did everything from running the forklift to selling blues with Driscoll’s. He was an amazing produce man and everybody that worked with Dad loved him. I appreciated everything Dad did for our family. He was always a constant in my life and I love him so much.”
His brother, Jimmy Bassetti, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little Bear Produce, also commented on the loss.
“I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for my big brother Bobby; he lived life to the fullest. He was in constant motion, always hustling and making things happen. He loved the action of the produce markets as much as he loved the craps tables,” Jimmy remarked. “Bobby was an original ‘produce man,’ constantly making deals whether he was in New Jersey, or North Carolina, or at his island home in St. Maarten. He had so many industry friends, colleagues, and customers who loved him dearly. We will all miss Bobby.”
Bob Bassetti’s sister, Cheryl Densten, Director of East Coast Operations for Little Bear Produce, shared her feelings as well.
“Bobby was my oldest brother and I loved him dearly, but when it came to yams and blues, he was as tough as it gets,” she reflected. “Nothing could stop Bob from making deals. No matter where he was, you can bet he was always cutting a deal. He was very proud of his pack and he always wanted top dollar, and he usually got it. I will miss Bobby and all the wonderful family times that we shared with him.”
Bob Bassetti not only had a passion for produce, but he also loved sports and spending time with his family at the Jersey shore and in the Caribbean islands.
He is survived by his children, Elaine Buchberger (Dale), Laurie Trongone (John), Melanie Heath (Dave) and the mother of his children Phyllis Bassetti; brother James Bassetti (Diane); sisters Marlene Scott and Cheryl Densten (Bruce); his grandchildren Zachary Buchberger (Niki), Camille Doherty, Jenna Trongone (Rob), Anthony Venuto (Brittany) and two great-grandchildren. Bob is predeceased by his parents James and Dolores Bassetti; second wife Janet (Stevenson) Bassetti; grandson Nicholas Venuto; and brother-in-law Roger Scott. A private family service is pending.
Donations can be made to St. Mary's School, Vineland, New Jersey, or The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia - Ronald McDonald House.
We extend our thoughts and prayers to Bob Bassetti’s friends and family as we mourn the loss of this industry legend.