The coffee and food service industries as well as the City of New Orleans, family, and so many friends and associates have lost a legend.
On Monday, January 5, 2015, the night before Twelfth Night, which is the official start of Carnival, Boatner Reily passed away. Friends at the New Orleans Time Picayune were kind enough to share this image of Mr. Reily, resplendent in his Mardi Gras tux, which truly captures his spirit. For decades he was involved in Mardi Gras, even presiding as Rex, King of Carnival in 1982.
Boatner, as he was known throughout his life, was a third generation leader and chairman of Reily Foods, a well-respected and successful food service distribution company, coffee roaster and tea blender, which includes the popular Luzianne Tea brand.
I had the pleasure of working for Mr. Reily on two occasions spanning a period of 15 years at Standard Coffee Service Company. And before joining the company, I ran a distribution business that served them.
While there are many publications now reflecting and reporting on his business acumen, philanthropy and civic leadership, my memories of Boatner Reily are the many qualities that defined him as a man and leader. He was a brilliant, prompt and thorough communicator, never failing to convey and lead from a position of strength but at the same time displaying appropriate measures of support and kind-spiritedness.
While we only engaged no more than a half dozen times per quarter, every encounter was memorable. I recall one event in particular. After I had stepped a bit past my area of responsibility and usurped negotiations with a Reily Food’s commodity supplier, (which ultimately resulted in a cost reduction for my division), Mr. Reily materialized in my office. He had noticed the reduction in cost of goods to my division on the products in question. While he had not made a total rush to judgment, he most likely suspected that I simply hammered someone at Reily Foods for the lower cost. I explained how I achieved the reduction. He realized that the end result benefitted both divisions. He then stood up and shook my hand while firmly declaring, “Masterfully done!”
Standard Coffee Service was sold by the Reily’s in 2012. While personally disappointed with pending change, I understood the rationale. Ultimately, having DS Services incorporate Coffee Service into their much larger Water Service route footprint has proven to be a logical fit. Reily Foods is now enhancing focus on their core competencies.
Reily Foods continues to be a great supplier to our new business. I am pleased to have maintained contact with old friends at Reily Foods, especially William B. Reily IV (Bo as we know him).
As we look now at Reily Foods, the Reily family and the legend of Boatner Reily, these words come to mind……