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A Glimpse into the Economic Forum and the Legacy of Val LaMantia and L&F Distributors

Charting Prosperity in the Rio Grande Valley

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Val’s narrative and the growth of L&F Distributors and Favorite Brands show their resilience, community engagement, and entrepreneurial expertise. The economic forum facilitated important discussions and celebrated the individuals and businesses driving the region’s growth. Val’s story is an inspiration and proof of the impact of dedication to community, education, and business excellence. Image by Roberto Hugo González
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By Roberto Hugo González 

The Rio Grande Valley, a dynamic region in Texas, recently held a notable event, “CEOs Unite“CEOs Unite, Let’s get  Uncomfortable: Economic Data Team.” Organized by Futuro RGV in collaboration with the Hidalgo County Prosperity Task Force, South Texas College, and the RGV Partnership, the forum convened top business leaders and key stakeholders to deliberate on the economic and educational outlook of the area. This gathering was a meeting of minds, a sign for regional growth, and a showcase of individuals and businesses’ key roles in shaping the community’s future.

Among the personalities present were Jim Collins of Mayfair and Rioco Partners, Joaquin Spamer, president of Commodities Integrated Logistics (CIL), and a central figure, Val LaMantia from L&F Distributors. Val LaMantia, introduced by Mario Reyna of the Hidalgo County Prosperity Task Force, was recognized for her longstanding contribution to the community.

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Val’s narrative is rich in resilience, community commitment, and entrepreneurial spirit. Her family’s journey began with her grandfather’s emigration from Italy to Chicago, where he established a significant produce business. This foundation of hard work and community connection paved the way for the family’s relocation to South Texas and their continued involvement in agriculture.

The company, co-managed by Val and her brothers, L&F Distributors, evolved from a small McAllen Budweiser distributorship into a powerhouse with a considerable presence in Texas and New Mexico. Now, they operate multiple warehouses under L&F Distributors and its sister company, Favorite Brands. This expansion reflects business expertise and the LaMantia family’s values—hard work, honesty, humility, and community love.

A hallmark of LaMantia’s and L&F Distributors’ philosophy is their firm commitment to philanthropy and education. “The Stars Scholarship Fund, initiated in 2002, has been a cornerstone of this commitment, providing substantial scholarships to thousands of students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college and a significant number of women,” she stated.

Despite the business’s success, challenges such as the Bud Light debacle posed significant hurdles. 

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Val reflected, “Approximately a year ago, we encountered a significant challenge during the Bud Light incident, which I’m not sure many of you recall. However, it was a situation entirely beyond our control. Due to our affiliation with a national organization, a single post and incident profoundly impacted our Bud Light sales – our flagship brand. It plummeted from being our top brand to nearly disappearing for a period. This unexpected setback caught us off guard, illustrating that in business, no matter what you sell, circumstances can lead to a sudden decline without any fault of your own.”

Val continued, underscoring the inherent uncertainty of the business world, “Over the ensuing months and throughout the past year, we managed to recover to some extent. Nevertheless, it prompted us to contemplate that unforeseen events can occur regardless of your dedication to your work and community. These events can disrupt your business, whether you have control over them or not.”

She elaborated, “In our case, we did bounce back from that challenging period. However, I believe there are valuable lessons to be collected from such experiences, emphasizing the importance of preparedness for anyone engaged in sales. It’s crucial to be ready and comprehend that when unexpected situations arise, having a well-thought-out plan is essential. Unfortunately, I don’t think our counterparts at Anheuser-Busch had a plan in place at the time. It’s more than burying your head in the sand; it’s about proactively addressing the issue, explaining your rationale, and defining your company’s identity. We tried to do just that, and I believe we’ve succeeded since. Nonetheless, it’s just one of the many lessons you learn in the business world, as Jim Collins rightly pointed out, especially when you’ve been in the industry for as long as we have.”

Val continued, “I’ve often been asked why I choose to remain in the Rio Grande Valley. Well, the answer is quite simple. We grew up here and received our education in this region, and as Jim mentioned earlier, it’s a fantastic place to call home. It’s a place with a remarkable story to share, filled with many outstanding individuals. The key is to tell your story consistently. So, I’d like to commend Richard Cortez, the Hidalgo County Judge, for spearheading this program. Over the years, I’ve heard the same sentiment repeatedly – that we should come together, showcase the Friday night lights, and truly champion the Rio Grande Valley.”

Val continued, emphasizing the importance of promoting the region, “I never identify myself as being solely from McAllen; I proudly say I’m from the Rio Grande Valley, or I mention the area code, 956. Our story is gaining more recognition, and people are becoming aware of where we come from, what we’re accomplishing, and our geographical location. When individuals from our corporate offices in St. Louis or New York visit, they sometimes assume we’re next to Dallas. We’re only 10 miles from the Mexican border, but this knowledge isn’t widespread. This awareness is vital, and it necessitates collaborative efforts. If your narrative faces obstacles or setbacks, it’s crucial to have a plan, get back on your feet, and continue sharing your story tirelessly.”

The LaMantia family’s venture, Favorite Brands, exemplifies their entrepreneurial journey. From its inception as a singular distributorship in McAllen, it has multiplied into a significant operation with numerous warehouses and employees. 

Val pointed out that their growth is a direct result of LaMantias’ understanding of the competitive nature of the beer, wine, and liquor industry and its strategic recruitment of skilled personnel. Favorite Brands is distinguished by its expert workforce and selection of craft and imported beers, boutique wines, and liquors.

“At this point in time, my father Joe LaMantia, Jr., has passed away, but he instilled in us many values. I know most of you either knew of him or have met him before, and he and my four brothers and I are running the companies now,” Val continued. “And we have a next generation coming up, which I’ll visit with a little later. But some things were important to us as we grew up. We were definitely tougher with hard work—honesty, humility, and love of our community. Being thankful for everything we have and trying to do even better than we were always instilled in us. And that is something that all companies should instill in not only their families but also in their workers.”

Val’s narrative and the growth of L&F Distributors and Favorite Brands represent the spirit of resilience, community engagement, and entrepreneurial wisdom. The Rio Grande Valley’s economic forum was a platform for discussion and a celebration of the individuals and enterprises driving the region’s prosperity. Val’s story stands as an inspiration, illustrating how a deep-rooted commitment to community, education, and business excellence can shape a company’s trajectory and the future of an entire region.

Written by Roberto Hugo González, the 2009 SBA Journalist of the Year Award Winner and the 2009 and 2012 Paul Harris Award recipient.

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