For decades, Vince’s Produce and Nursery in Linthicum operated without a name. The reason? Owner Vince Lamartina wanted the fresh fruit, vegetables and plants to speak for themselves — and they did.
Lamartina’s love of produce, his discerning eye for quality and his beaming and genuine smile were all the advertising needed to make the produce stand become the successful neighborhood landmark it is today.
Since 1982, Lamartina and his family have run the road-side business, providing area residents with fresh produce from Maryland farmers. Since opening over 35 years ago, the local entrepreneur has employed more than 1,000 teenagers at his stand. And although Lamartina died July 18, just 60 days shy of his 94th birthday, his legacy will carry on through his family run operation.
You could say that selling produce — and having fierce determination— was in Lamartina’s blood. At 9, he began helping his immigrant father sell fruits and vegetables at Lexington Market in Baltimore.
He continued to work through his early years, even quitting school at 16 to help support his family. When he turned 18, however, he was drafted into the army and fought in World War II. He served in the infantry and was an amphibian tractor driver. He was qualified as an expert marksman and earned the rank of sergeant.
On Nov. 24, 1944, while serving on Leyte Island in the Southern Philippines, Lamartina’s life took a dramatic turn. He was shot in the right shoulder while standing in waist-deep swamp water. Unconscious, Lamartina was dragged to the shore and taken to a hospital in Atlantic City, NJ, for treatment. Attempts to save his arm were futile, and Lamartina returned home with two bronze stars and a Purple Heart.
Upon leaving the military, Lamartina learned to write with his left hand and even mastered driving a manual truck. He married his wife Eleanor in 1946 and the couple had two children, Julie and Anthony.
In the early 1980s, when Lamartina was at an age people usually retired, he opened up the stand, but only at his daughter’s request.
“I pretty much talked him into it,” said Julie Lamartina-Dinko, who was looking for a side business to run with her family. “I was hoping we were just going to do weekends, but we never did just weekends.”
Lamartina-Dinko eventually left her job with the state to run the stand full-time with her family. Her brother, Anthony, also helped on the weekends. Their late mother was also a staple at the stand until she suffered a stroke.
Along with serving fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables, Vince’s Produce and Nursery also donates to local schools and churches, including St. Philip Neri. Each year, Vince’s provides students there with reduced-cost flowers for Mother’s Day and pumpkins in the fall.
This generosity, along with a love of making people happy, is part of the reason why Vince’s has stood the test of time. Another, was Lamartina’s passion for produce.
“He loved to talk about produce,” said his son, Anthony. “He loved to package good, quality produce to make people happy.”
Despite being the face of a successful company, Anthony said he believes people will remember his father most for his perseverance and determination.
“Our dad believed that anyone, regardless of where they came from or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in society,” Anthony said in the eulogy he wrote for his father’s funeral, held at St. Jude’s Shrine in Baltimore on July 26. “That in this country anything is possible with perseverance and hope. He never let his life’s challenges, obstacles or bad breaks prevent him from making his dreams a reality. When I look back on the life that dad lived, all that he accomplished, and everything he overcame, I can only come to one conclusion: our father lived the American dream.”
Pumphrey Day 2018
The annual Pumphrey Day will take place Saturday, August 4, beginning at 10:30 am at the Lloyd Keaser Community Center, 5757 Belle Grove Road, in Brooklyn Park. The festivities will begin with a ceremony to honor military veterans who served in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Community members are invited to reconnect with family, friends and neighbors with food, fun and dance. Attendees are asked to bring water, healthy snacks and other non-perishable food items for distribution throughout the event.