Many vending veterans long for the days when independent operators played a bigger role in the industry and were known for providing good service. Years ago, most big cities had scores of independents winning some of the larger accounts.
A measure of that treasured past is returning to Philadelphia, Pa., where Elliot’s Vending Co. Inc., an 8-route operation, has managed to win some of the biggest accounts, due in large measure to a reputation for providing good service.
Elliot’s Vending Co. is the story of an ambitious entrepreneur — Elliot Teitelbaum — who taught himself the business and whose enthusiasm and dedication won the support of a seasoned industry veteran — John Boyle. The team of Elliot Teitelbaum and John Boyle has put this 15-year-old player on the map.
A VETERAN JOINS AN UPSTART
Boyle retired from active duty in 2004, after working for several operations. At that time, he saw an industry in transition, with nationals gaining most of the big accounts and good independents consolidating. The industry was changing, and not in a way that Boyle appreciated.
All of that changed for Boyle in 2006 when he met Teitelbaum, then an ambitious 34-year-old who was as committed to customer service as Boyle himself had been throughout his career.
Boyle saw in Teitelbaum the spark that he remembered from his own youth. It was enough to make Boyle come back to the industry.
“I don’t see the young guys coming in,” Boyle said. “It (seeing Teitelbaum in action) makes me feel good that this industry is going to progress.”
Today, Boyle serves as Teitelbaum’s right hand man at Elliot’s Vending Co. The pair bring the combined talents of a young, ambitious entrepreneur and a seasoned veteran.
“John (Boyle) was a big part of getting to where I am,” Teitelbaum said.
The company has taken its hits with the current recession, and consolidated two of its routes in the last year. But the company has sustained sales better than most; 2009 sales were down slightly less than 10 percent, which was better than many companies.
Teitelbaum expanded into full line vending from amusement machines and remains a hands-on leader.
Boyle, who was a regional executive for Canteen Vending Service before joining his younger colleague, handles sales and marketing.
“We’re a big small company,” Teitelbaum explained. “I micro manage. I touch a lot of things that go on, on a daily basis.” Both of his parents work for him in clerical roles, as does his wife, Elisa Greenberg, who oversees the OCS division.
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS IN VENDING
Teitelbaum didn’t have the advantage of being born into the vending business. His father was an insurance salesman.
As a teenager, Teitelbaum started out operating toy crane machines from his parents’ house. He got into full line vending years later when his amusement vending locations — mostly bars and restaurants — asked him to add soda and snack machines.
Teitelbaum quickly realized that the soda and snack machines require dedicated service, so he hired a driver to attend to these machines. His amusement machine technicians were able to handle the repairs.
2003: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR EXPANSION EMERGES
In 2003, Betson Enterprises, Teitelbaum’s equipment supplier, advised him that a local full line vending operator was looking to retire. Believing growth was limited in the amusement machine business, Teitelbaum was interested in acquiring the full line vending company.
In 2004, following due diligence, Teitelbaum purchased that company, Solly’s Services, a 4-route operation, with a bank loan. The acquisition gave him a 12,000-square-foot space in Huntingdon Valley, Pa., which was more than he had in his previous building in Conshohocken, Pa.