Spend five minutes with Ron Bernardi and you’ll likely want to adopt him as your new favorite uncle.
Ron radiates geniality, kindness and enthusiasm, all of which make him an excellent community liaison for the family-owned, community-centric company Sunset Foods.
Ron loves serving the Rotary of Northbrook—where he’s been a member for 44 years, supporting local nonprofits, driving a restoration of Sunset Foods’ 1941 Chevy delivery truck at community events, volunteering his prodigious auctioneer skills and making a difference for people in his community every other way he can. He wins over everyone he meets with his huge heart.
Ron’s grandfather came to the U.S. from a little town in Italy in the early 20th century and settled in Highland Park, where Ron was born and raised.
“He came here for a better life, and his life was about hard work and self-sacrifice,” Ron says.
And Ron has dedicated his life to keeping that family tradition alive. His uncles, the Cortesi Brothers (Hugo, John, Otto and William) started Sunset Foods in 1937 with a 25-by-30-foot store in Highland Park. Now, the company has five locations throughout the North Shore and will celebrate its 75th anniversary next year. Three generations of the family have been involved in the business, and the current managing directors are President and CEO John E. Cortesi, Richard Cortesi and Ron Cizzon.
“I’m like the family historian,” Ron Bernardi says. “I know the chronological history, because I’ve been working there for most of it.”
He started out bagging groceries as a high school student in the Highland Park store in 1959, and in the ‘60s, he became the manager of the Northbrook store, a job he held for many years. Through the decades, Ron has epitomized Sunset’s motto of the three T’s—“we give our time, our talents and our treasures,” he says. “Any community event, we’re usually there.”
When he’s not representing Sunset in the community, you can find him at Rotary board meetings, or raising tens of thousands of dollars for local organizations as an auctioneer—a job he fell into and loves. “I have enthusiasm and passion,” he says. “That’s what an auctioneer needs—that, and I know how to engage an audience.”