Founder of Santa Rosa’s Fru-ta Natural Ice Cream wins North Bay Latino business leadership award
This Latino community has suffered significantly under the coronavirus, said Salvador Cruz of Fru-ta All Natural Ice Cream, a 2020 winner of the Business Journal’s Latino Business Leadership Awards.
Education: High School
Staff: 43 Employees
Professional/ Company background: Fru-ta's founder Salvador Cruz was born and raised in Mexico. Growing up he always loved the tastes of the local ice cream flavors on almost every corner. All the exotic fruits and flavors he tasted as a child have molded what his business is today.
After 20 years of working in the cabinetry business, the recession hit hard in 2009. He decided it was time to try something else. Something that he enjoys doing every day, something that puts smiles on people's faces and is especially exciting for children.
Since starting, he has continued to improve his product into what you taste in our stores today - fresh high quality ice cream.
Starting in 2010 in Santa Rosa, California, Fru-ta now has four locations throughout Sonoma County. After two successful years at our Stony Point store we opened our second location in Petaluma. In 2014 Fru-ta opened its third location in the Rincon Valley neighborhood of Santa Rosa. Fru-ta’s fourth and most recent location opened its doors in July 2018 in the Rosewood Village Shopping Center on the corner of Marlow Road and Piner Road in Santa Rosa.
What is the achievement you are most proud of?
I am most proud of this business and my kids. Being an immigrant with only a high school education and being able to start this makes me very proud. I am also very proud of being able to provide a great life for my kids and send them to college.
What is your biggest challenge today?
The biggest challenge I face with my business is staying profitable. Everything around us is getting more expensive and we only use high quality fruit and ingredients so it’s a big challenge to keep profitable without making my product too expensive.
What are you most proud of regarding the achievements of the area Latino business community and what are the greatest challenges faced by that community?
I am very proud to own a business in this Santa Rosa community. There is a very strong and hard working Latino community here in Sonoma County and especially Santa Rosa and it is very gratifying to be their neighborhood ice cream shop.
I think what makes me most proud of this community is just the unity and kindness – everyone seems to support everyone. The greatest challenge this community faces is cost of living. Living in this state and specifically this county has become ridiculously expensive and it’s near impossible for someone to afford living here without working multiple jobs.
Words that best describe you: Workaholic, resilient, perfectionist, stubborn, old school, and compassionate (written by my kids)
As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
Over the last 10 years there have been a lot of obstacles and challenges there is no doubt about that. But nothing worth having ever comes easy.
Obviously the year 2020 has been a huge obstacle and challenge in itself as I am sure it has been for any business in this country. Although here in California we also have had to deal with the fires and power outages.
No matter what challenges we faced I always stayed resilient and worked hard to overcome whatever challenges we faced.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
As technology advances I am sure there will be improvements to the way we do things. Even things such as making our ice cream will likely see advancements in the next 5 years. Our goal over the next five years is to grow our business while making it as efficient, organized and profitable as possible.
Tell us about your community involvement: I try to keep Fru-ta as involved in the community as possible. We love to host dine and donate for local elementary schools and donate tons of fruits and vegetables to local organizations. We also donate coolers full of paletas to local churches and organizations throughout the county.
What advice would you give to a young person today?
Advice I would give to a young person is – find something you enjoy, something you can see yourself becoming very good at and doing for the rest of your life and work hard at it.
Work every day to get better at it and improve your chances of becoming successful at it. If you work hard at something every single day there is no chance that you will not succeed. Nothing comes easy in today’s world and in order to succeed you must be willing to work hard and sacrifice.
It’s a challenging time for all but the COVID-19 virus has been especially tough on the Latino community. Tell us your experience either personally or with the group or company you work with in dealing with the economic impact of the virus.
Our experience with COVID-19 has been challenging. We built service windows and walls in front of our stores in order to keep serving our customers without coming into much contact. It definitely helped combat the threat of our employees catching the virus although it made serving our customers a lot more challenging.
There was a time where we had a lot of customers upset with our service but there was not much we could do given the circumstances.
I do think the Latino community has had it especially tough during this pandemic. With the ridiculous cost of living many Latinos in this community cannot afford to take any time off and are still out there working two or three jobs in order to keep up with bills. Many industries have not done enough to protect their workers.
That being said I also would like to say that I think there are still not enough people taking this virus serious enough.