One might expect a chief executive officer of a multimillion-dollar company to appear at corporate headquarters dressed to the nines. Not Chloe Gentry. She comes ready to work in skinny jeans, a gray T-shirt and black slip-ons to help run the family’s landscape and citrus company.
She and her two siblings, Melanie Ressler and Timothee Sallin, co-lead IMG Enterprises and manage 13,000 acres of property. They took the helm in 2021 when their parents, Michel and Veronique Sallin, retired. IMG is the holding company for Cherrylake, Inc.
Gentry and her siblings moved to Central Florida in 1982. “We spent our childhoods playing in the groves behind our house,” Gentry said. “We’d have orange fights. The only thing worse than getting hit with a rotten one was the hard impact of a fresh one.”
The infancy of their family company weathered freezes of the 1980s. “As a six-year-old, I remember the winter of 1985 as magical with snowflakes falling outside,” she said. “Then I came inside and saw my dad was pale as a ghost. I knew something was wrong.”
Her brother said that the 100-year freeze in the ’80s with record cold temperatures “killed every single citrus tree” in the fledgling family business. They faced struggles again with the arctic blast of December 2022.
But they had learned coping strategies early on. To survive the economic devastation, Gentry recalls in her childhood that the family streamlined budgets. “My older sister stopped attending a private school.”
Gentry grimaces, remembering missing the movie showing of ET since she had to shovel sand to help her parents secure the canvas protecting the tree nursery’s border against the cold. “With the business in peril we buckled down, but I never felt fearful.”
She said her parents modeled an optimistic attitude that “We’d get through it together.” They repurposed citrus land with landscape trees, as well as considered vineyards and catfish farms.
Though her parents worked long hours, they balanced having the children with them on ventures. “After church, we’d drive around so Dad could look at what trees were vigorous growers in this climate,” Gentry said. “He’d see a magnolia with good genetics and stop the car to knock on the owner’s door. We’d get permission, then go pick up seeds to replant.”
Agriculture has been a steady part of their heritage as their grandfather raised apple orchards in Normandy. Their dad came to the United States to pursue an opportunity in corporate finance for a large international steel company after graduating from business school in Paris. But he had a heart for agriculture, so when the opportunity came, he took it.
“Dad is a farmer-entrepreneur who built a business with strategic and financial savvy,” Gentry said. “He was able to creatively assess risk.”
The Sallins vacationed in Europe to visit extended family. “We traveled through France, Belgium, and Scandinavia,” Gentry said. “But all the while, we listened to my parents conduct business with European customers.”
These second-generation leaders coordinate importing citrus from overseas during the summer when Florida has no crop. “There’s good fruit coming in from Chile and Peru,” Timothee Sallin said, adding that Florida’s harvest season is October to March.
Gentry relishes the small-town feel of Lake County. “I’d go to the grocery store after church with my mom, and she’d speak with someone on every aisle. That would take longer than church!”
Gentry and her husband, Todd, want to preserve the values of hard work and a loving family for their children. “We don’t own anything,” she said. “We are just stewards for the next generation to pass down love and a purpose for the land.”
They take a long view of business. “We have to have patience,” Sallin said. “Our largest tree—the live oak seedling in a 670-gallon container—grows 10 years before we market it.”
He added, “I have the best job in the world! I am working with nature and seeing how everything grows through the seasons. I get to work with people who love what they do.”
Gentry said she approaches every opportunity with openness and curiosity. For her, authenticity is a key character trait for success. “It is important to build meaningful connections around common purpose. We have exponential impact in terms of peoples’ lives and livelihoods.”
“When you can find points for synergy, that’s when magic happens,” Gentry said.
Today’s Bible verse:
“Posterity will serve him: future generations will be told about the Lord,” Psalm 22:30 NIV.
Bill High's article about training up the next generation in faith:
Interesting facts about Southern Live Oaks:
“The oldest live oaks in the country are estimated to be between several hundred to more than a thousand years old.”
History of Florida’s Lake County Citrus at https://www.historyoflakecountycitrus.com/historyhttps://www.historyoflakecountycitrus.com/history