Foodservice Industry Icon Passes Away

Curtis rose through ranks of family’s coffee equipment company

Robert Curtis Wilbur Curtis

Robert Curtis

MONTEBELLO, Calif. -- Robert A. Curtis, chairman and CEO emeritus of The Wilbur Curtis Co., who propelled the company's growth beginning in the late 1940s, died June 24.

Second in the fourth-generation lineage that built a leading coffee and tea brewing equipment manufacturer, Curtis “left an indelible imprint on the company bearing his name, as he did the many people and passions that were part of his illustrious life,” the company said.

Born in 1930 in Hartford, Conn., to company founder Wilbur Curtis and former CEO Margaret Curtis, Robert Curtis attended the New Mexico Military Institute, moving back to study at L.A. City College, and later majored in advertising at the University of Southern California (USC). There, he joined the Phi Delta Theta fraternity along with the school’s ROTC program, becoming a member of the honor squadron, and ultimately being appointed Air Force Squadron Commander.

The Wilbur Curtis Co. was founded in 1941. Robert Curtis joined the company in 1948. He rose through the ranks, propelling the company from its origins to a dominant position in the foodservice equipment industry.

He was named executive vice president after his mother took the reins of the company in the early 1960s, and he became president in 1989. He continued to be instrumental in the Montebello, Calif.-based company’s growth and helped propel its value and position within the foodservice industry throughout the next few decades.

Robert Curtis’ son Kevin joined the firm in 1985 and is now president and CEO; his other son, Michael, followed in 1993 and now holds the office of executive vice president; daughters Katie and Meg hold positions within the company; and the fourth-generation family members, Michael’s sons, Brant and Patrick, are instrumental in the pursuit of specialty coffee and product innovation.

He is survived by his wife, Sallee; her three children; Bob’s two sons, Kevin and Michael; four daughters, Suzi, Meg, June and Katie; 17 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

CSP sends condolences to his family, his friends and his colleagues.