This year marked the 10th time that readers nominated individuals and teams whose accomplishments are moving the industry forward, and this esteemed award recognizes and celebrates their achievements. Congratulations to the 2023 Automatic Merchandiser Pros to Know Award winners who have helped their companies excel in the vending, micro market and office coffee service industry. The following individuals and teams have persevered through today’s challenging business environment to elevate workplace refreshments and embrace new technology to promote future growth of the industry.
Pros to Know Award Winners – Individuals
Founder and CEO
Digital Media Vending International LLC
David Ashforth, a visionary entrepreneur and the driving force behind Digital Media Vending International (DMVI), boasts over 21 years of industry-leading expertise. As the CEO and founder of DMVI for 14 years, he has successfully co-owned and steered a pioneering custom vending machine design and manufacturing enterprise. DMVI is renowned for its innovative approach, consistently delivering intelligent and efficient product dispensing solutions across diverse industries, encompassing electronics, baked goods and non-traditional products. Ashforth’s unwavering commitment to excellence is evident throughout the company’s operations. Leveraging his wealth of experience, he provides invaluable guidance to clients at every stage of their journey, from initial design concepts to meticulous research, precision manufacturing and prototyping. With Ashforth at the helm, DMVI is poised to continue shaping the future of vending solutions worldwide.
President – Premier Sales & Marketing
Vice President – Atnip Co.
Larry Atnip is second generation with Atnip Co. and a founding partner with Premier Sales & Marketing. Starting in the convenience services industry over 40 years ago, Atnip has had the fortunate opportunity to grow with this business and be involved in the many changes as a sales agent for many fine products. He prides himself being involved in developing innovation, pioneering new trends and looking for new products to increase operators’ sales. Sales and marketing are at the core of the industry, and Atnip is often asked, “What do you have that is new?” Fortunately, Atnip and his team always have something new to talk about. “Making friends across this country from my experiences being on the NAMA board gave me a broader understanding of the impact each of our team members at Atnip/Premier make with our operators and distributors,” Atnip said. “I am truly proud of the relationships we all have in building a better future for the convenience services industry.”
Regional Sales Manager
David Barrientos is Flowers Bakeries’ regional sales manager for the North. Since 2019, he has played a pivotal role in bridging the gap between sales and production in support of his vending industry customers. With decades of experience in the food and beverage industry and extensive product knowledge, Barrientos is able to think outside the box to help operators and distributors grow their business.
Mac Bolak has been starting companies in the artificial intelligence space since he was a teenager, including a venture capital-backed company that used AI to edit basketball footage autonomously for basketball coaches. In 2019, he founded Panoptyc, the micro market industry’s leading theft detection and security company. In 2022, Panoptyc was a recipient of Automatic Merchandiser’s Readers’ Choice Products of the Year Awards in the technology category. Panoptyc works with industry leaders and is in over 6,000 micro markets across the U.S., Canada and Europe. Panoptyc uses cutting-edge AI software and smart cameras to decrease theft in micro markets and save operators time reviewing footage. As a young and determined visionary, Bolak knows the industry inside-out and is continuously looking to improve Panoptyc’s services while also exploring new opportunities within the industry.
Ciprian Bucsa has more than a decade of experience accumulated in the supply chain industry. Over the years, he has been highly skilled in identifying new clients, retaining his existing customer base and driving revenue growth. Bucsa excels in providing coffee solutions to customers in a way that best fits their budget and taste pallets. He is currently the president of US Products, a division of AVS Companies that focuses on providing a unique variety of consumable products to its customers. As a believer that extraordinary results are achieved by ordinary people working as a unit, Bucsa is the pro that you need to know when it comes to coffee and consumable goods in your business.
Katie Cocklin is responsible for multiple facets of the growth that Chunk Nibbles has experienced in the past few years. She handles the operations of its self-manufacturing capabilities supply chain while advancing marketing efforts in both digital and physical form. Being newer to this industry has not held her back. Cocklin has a vision of where the company can go and works tirelessly to achieve the results the company has targeted as a business. She has a keen eye for design and understanding what customers are looking for in the micro market and vending industry. Resilient, diligent and dependable are some of the best terms to describe this hardworking woman. She is a 2012 graduate from Michigan State University.
VP/General Manager, Cantaloupe Go Micro Market Division
Tony Danna is the vice president and general manager of the Cantaloupe Go micro market division (formerly Three Square Market). Prior to Cantaloupe, he started at Three Square Market in 2016 and spent five years building the business in the U.K. and Europe. Danna was promoted to president in January 2022, and led Three Square Market through its acquisition by Cantaloupe in December 2022. He is also a past recipient of Automatic Merchandiser’s Pros to Know Awards in his previous position as director of international sales and was a recipient of Automatic Merchandiser’s 40 Under 40 Awards.
National Service Manager
Thomas Denardo has been instrumental in transforming the department into a proactive and results-driven team since joining the company. Through his leadership, they have implemented new policies and procedures that have led to remarkable growth. Denardo’s commitment to data-based decision-making and dedication to the department’s success have influenced his team to make informed choices and provide dynamic solutions, resulting in a high customer retention rate. By establishing strategic partnerships with national service providers, his team has improved their reach and service, enabling them to become more customer-focused and efficient. Denardo’s dedication to fostering a high-performing team and allowing continuous improvement opportunities has influenced excellence in Everest’s service department, contributing to its overall success.
Western Sales Manager
CBI & Associates
Cathy Feeley has been in the industry for over 40 years, starting with Kraft Foodservice on the East coast and then moving to the West where she “retired” with Kraft in 1993. After a five-year hiatus, she came back into the convenience services channel via the broker world. She has been with CBI & Associates since 2015. She currently serves on two NAMA committees and as an officer for Arizona and California’s state council boards, which helps her keep her pulse on the refreshment services world. Feeley was honored to be voted by her Arizona peers last month as the AAMC Supplier of the Year. Her passion is selling coffee and healthy snacks and beverages. “I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors and industry peers that continue to help show me the way,” she said. “My primary hope is to be viewed as a resource to my customers, as an advocate for the companies I represent, as well as additional individuals and companies that will best help them succeed.”
Co-founder and CEO
Sun & Swell
Kate Flynn is an entrepreneur passionate about creating a more sustainable future. She is the co-founder and CEO of Sun & Swell, a women-owned Certified B Corp based in Santa Barbara, California, with a mission to eliminate single-use plastics from the packaged food industry and build a more circular food system. Flynn earned her MBA from Harvard and holds a B.A. in economics from University of California - Santa Barbara. Prior to launching Sun & Swell, she was a management consultant and CPA. She lives in Santa Barbara with her husband and co-founder, Bryan, two small children, and a labradoodle.
Manager of Account Ambassadors
365 Retail Markets
Dawn Halstead joined 365 Retail Markets in 2017 as an accounting clerk in the 365 finance department. When a position opened on the account services team in 2020, she moved into an account ambassador role, helping support several enterprise customers working closely with the account managers. Halstead’s exceptional organizational skills, willingness to assist others and ability to problem solve allowed her to easily transition into a supervisory role where she has helped to build the account ambassador team. With a passion for training and development, Halstead implemented and launched a new CRM platform, onboarding all members of the sales team. She continually seeks improvements to streamline processes and close any gaps that might impact customer success. Halstead was most recently promoted to manager of account ambassadors where she will continue to mentor and develop her team.
Co-founder and CEO
Sean Grundy is the co-founder and CEO of Bevi, maker of the leading Smart Water Cooler that provides sparkling, flavored and enhanced water on demand. Grundy and his two co-founders started Bevi in 2013 with the vision of making the beverage industry environmentally sustainable by eliminating the need for single-use bottles and cans. Since Bevi's inception, the company has helped thousands of organizations across North America save more than 400 million single-use plastic bottles collectively and has raised over $160 million in venture capital to disrupt the bottled beverage industry. The company continued growing throughout the pandemic by expanding its customer base beyond offices to include hotels, schools and factories. Grundy holds an MBA from MIT and a B.A. in philosophy from Princeton University.
Director of R&D
Olcay Guldogan, director of R&D at Selfly Store, is a distinguished professional with over 20 years of experience in technology industries. Holding Master of Science and MBA degrees, Guldogan has an extensive background in pioneering emerging technologies like IoT, AI, cloud computing and mobile devices. Under his leadership of Selfly Store’s R&D team, the company has developed award-winning solutions like the Selfly Store Model 3 series, an intelligent vending freezer. These cutting-edge solutions are currently used by over 100 clients across 21 European countries, revolutionizing self-service shopping by enhancing consumer and merchant experiences while minimizing waste. Guldogan’s commitment to innovation continues to pave the way for future growth and adaptation in an ever-changing business climate.
Area Sales Manager
PrairieFire Coffee Roasters
Terry Herr has been a sales leader for the past 20 years in the beverage industry. He has been a vice president of sales and marketing and general sales manager, leading his team to success. Herr’s passion is to develop his team members into industry leaders with dedication and hard work and the desire to never give up. His motto is: out-work the competition. “I have a great team of beverage experts that have played a critical role in our companies’ success,” Herr said. “We all have 24 hours in a day; how you choose to use ‘your’ 24 hours is what really counts. We can’t do what we have always done and continue to be successful. We need to be innovators, think outside the box and find something new to present the ‘wow’ factor.”
Director of New Business Development
Five Star Food Service
Since entering the industry in early 2019, Nick Himburg has held roles within Five Star as a retail team manager, customer service manager and currently serves as director of new business development in the Atlanta metro market. Himburg contributes his success to his operational and account management background as well as having many great mentors along the way. This experience has allowed him to bridge the gap between sales and operations to deliver new customers a service program that meets their needs and is operationally achievable. He prides himself on building new relationships and providing outside-the-box ideas to solve the pain points his clients face.
Paul T. Ihn
Vice President of Product Strategy and Day to Day Operations
Since April 2022, Paul T. Ihn has been steering Vendtech/Naturals2go, a company renowned for fostering local vending businesses since 1987, as the vice president of product strategy and day-to-day operations. He is the linchpin for all product strategy and operational matters, ensuring the company’s offerings are both innovative and operationally sound. Previously, Ihn was the vice president of engineering and operations for the Wittern Group. He was a member of the company’s executive council and spearheaded strategic deployment, advanced R&D activities, and the verification and validation of an array of vending products. Previously, Ihn was the vice president of engineering and operations for Chicago Metallic, and prior to that, Ihn served as engineering vice president of Crane Merchandising Systems (CMS). His role at CMS, which followed the acquisition of Automatic Products Inc. (APi) in 2006, saw him leading engineering functions across facilities in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Warminster, Pennsylvania. Ihn initially joined APi in 1996 as senior vice president of engineering.
Ken Joyner, founder of Innovative Vending, started his career in human resources and spent the next 30 years achieving amazing results in such industries as telecommunications, chemical manufacturing and distribution and hospital administration. After having a stellar career in human resources, his next career path led him to start Innovative Vending, the premier company helping people achieve their lifelong goal, being a successful entrepreneur in the lucrative vending industry. Joyner is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in finance and human resource management and a master’s in business administration from Webster University. He is an active member with the Society for Human Resource Management, holding the honor and distinction of Senior Certiﬁed Professional SHRM-SCP.
G & J Marketing and Sales
Bobby Keenan boasts an impressive 13-year career with G & J Marketing and Sales, primarily serving the Delaware, New Jersey and Massachusetts territories in the convenience services industry. His ability to forge lasting relationships have been instrumental in expanding the company's presence in these regions. Keenan’s unwavering commitment to excellence and strong work ethic, coupled with his dedication to serving customers, supplier partners and distributors, are the driving forces behind his ongoing success.
Director of Sales
Five Star Food Service
With over 20 years in customer relations and retail business development experience, Katie Pilcher joined Five Star’s team in late 2020, during the middle of a pandemic, in a new role as director of sales for a startup branch in Dothan, Alabama, which was a newly acquired territory for Five Star. A year later, her territory expanded to supporting five branches stretching over 300 miles in the Southeast. During this time, Pilcher focused on prospecting, fostering new relationships and growing the customer base and sales to over $5 million in new business. With deep Southern roots and a passion to serve others, she strives to approach each client with the best hospitality and solutions for their ever-changing and sometimes challenging workforce. She does this with the support of her team, suppliers and her husband of 25 years, along with their four daughters, who continue to inspire and encourage her to keep the grit along with the grace.
VP of Customer Operations
365 Retail Markets
Jeff Pinc joined the 365 Retail Markets team in July 2022, but prior to that, he has been an active restaurant and foodservice community member since the age of 15, from filling and frosting donuts to being a trained chef and co-owner of two restaurants. He has over 25 years of experience providing technology solutions to independent restaurants, stadiums and arenas and some of the largest global brands in the industry. Pinc has previously worked across organizations where his focus has been in SaaS software sales for restaurants and retailers to achieve operations excellence and food safety compliance. He attended Chaminade University of Honolulu and currently resides in Wisconsin.
Director of Retail Operations Support
Five Star Food Service
Laura Price joined Five Star nearly a decade ago serving as a reporting analyst, concentrating on the newly deployed micro market line of business and helping develop and launch the company’s business intelligence reporting software. With the rapid growth of micro markets and the company, she took on the additional role of managing a support team for both micro markets and vending at the corporate level. Price works closely with the VMS and market technology providers to keep Five Star’s retail operational data accurate and up to date, as well as testing new features prior to release. Additionally, she manages the backend of Five Star’s retail pricing program across micro markets and vending, working to ensure a fair retail price for the consumer while maintaining necessary margins to meet company expenses and revenue goals. Last year, Price was the recipient of Five Star’s Extra Mile Award for her dedicated service.
Gilbert Ramirez Jr.
Gilbert Ramirez Jr. strives to implement new strategies and achieve exceptional results. His knowledge of the ever-changing digital landscape has enabled him to execute progressive marketing strategies that captivate the company’s target audience across multiple platforms. By fostering a collaborative and empowering work environment, Ramirez has enabled marketing team members to thrive, resulting in enhanced productivity and exceptional campaign outcomes. His commitment to customer engagement and cross-departmental collaboration has led to remarkable growth in website traffic and contacts for Everest. His vision and work influenced Everest to expand into the convenience sector. Ramirez is always seeking customer feedback and leveraging their insights to refine marketing strategies and ensure satisfaction. With his expertise, creativity and dedication, he is continuously driving Everest’s success and pushing the company to new heights.
Robert Rouillier is a young visionary and founder of VendingWhale, a thriving vending machine enterprise headquartered in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. A true local talent, Rouillier’s entrepreneurial journey began when he made the bold decision to leave college prematurely to pursue his vending machine business dreams. In a short span of less than a year, Rouillier transformed his modest one-machine operation into a lucrative venture. His remarkable success can be attributed to his unwavering commitment to putting people first and fostering community growth. Rouillier’s entrepreneurial spirit is matched only by his dedication to self-improvement. He is entirely self-taught in the art of running a business and further honed his skills through an apprenticeship with a respected local vending machine repair company. With over 75 machines under his belt and a bright vision for the future, Rouillier continues to be a dynamic force in the vending machine industry, all while championing community development and success.
Micro Market Sales Project Manager
Atlantic Culinary Environments
Joseph Scala is proud to be an integral part of Atlantic Culinary Environments Inc. With over 10 years of experience, his journey in the micro market industry has been defined by dedication and hard work. He has had the privilege to witness and contribute to the remarkable growth and innovation in the micro market industry. Scala’s passion for this field only continues to grow with time, and he takes pride in his role as a trusted advisor to its clients and strategic partners. “In the fast-paced industry, dedication and expertise are key,” Scala said. “I am committed to pushing the boundaries and contributing to continued growth and innovations in the micro market sector.” His family is a constant source of inspiration and motivation.
Associated Services Company
Joseph Silva has over 30 years in the office coffee industry, which started with his role as office and operation manager for Coffee Service Company and later, as part of the Associated Services Company family as office manager, purchasing, and for the past 17 years, as branch manager for the San Jose office. Customer service has always been his number-one priority. To achieve this, Silva feels that it requires a team. Over the years, he has worked to train, help and support his team and others within the organization to provide the best level of service to all its customers, which allows them to be a part of a successful team and company that he is proud to be a part of.
Director of Operations
Glenn Wight joined Agora Refreshments as an operations manager in early 2019 and assumed the role of director of operations in early 2022. Coming from an aerospace background, he set out to refine and improve processes at Agora. Along the way, he navigated the difficulties of the pandemic and has been instrumental in the continued growth of Agora post-pandemic, recapturing and eclipsing 2019 revenue numbers. Wight, along with his team, has helped grow Agora’s service offerings, including the development of a robust pantry program that has increased snack revenue by over 1000% while maintaining high customer satisfaction. Over the past four years, Wight has overseen a full ERP implementation, directed two warehouse moves in both the Seattle and Portland markets, and helped position the Agora operations team for future success. Wight is a graduate of Western Washington University with a B.A. in Business Administration and a focus in operations management.
North American Support Team Lead
Nate Yarborough began working at Nayax LLC in 2016 as a support agent. During his time in this role, he recognized the need for more comprehensive training materials for new customers and took on this initiative to improve customer support. Yarborough’s dedication to improving the quality and availability of support led to his selection as a support liaison for VIP customers. In 2022, he was promoted to support team lead, where he continued to build on his success by helping to establish an additional support center to provide increased coverage for all U.S. customers.
Pros to Know Award Winners – Teams
Five Star Food Service
Team leaders: David Amberger, VP of purchasing and category management, Kimberly Boorse, senior category manager, Jessie Brown, category manager, Jay Harrold, purchasing manager, and Austen Bowles, associate category analyst
The Five Star Food Service purchasing and category management team works together with its supplier partners to maximize the company’s sales and profits by satisfying customer needs. The team take a strategic approach in managing product category and product selection to achieve sales and profit targets. They accomplish this through: (1) Selecting the best product by working through supplier partners and category captains. (2) Optimizing pricing based upon market baskets, margin analysis and price elasticity. (3) Utilizing space management tools to ensure that products are ideally placed for optimal sales and margins through category and brand blocking in its planograms. (4) Creating a robust promotion calendar to drive consumers to its retail outlet and create excitement. (5) Gathering information from both internal data and category captains to gain insight into consumer behavior.
Kimberly Boorse handles the beverage and food categories, Jessie Brown handles the total snack category, Jay Harrold is focused on pricing and margin improvement, and Austen Bowles is focused on placement in space management software.
Team leaders: Mac Bolak, CEO, Ross Winston, head of business development, Bridger Keally, VP of sales, Lisa Emanuel, general manager, and Shane Wise, SDR
With theft on the rise, micro market operators are having a harder time seeing their profit slip away, especially when other priorities take precedence. Trying to catch a thief is both time-consuming and difficult, with many operators still dealing with outdated camera systems and DVR swaps. Panoptyc has changed the way theft detection and security solutions are implemented in the micro market industry. They provide a security camera system for operators that uses AI to identify and flag anomalies in customer behavior that predict theft. Once those are identified, Panoptyc’s team of investigators analyze the footage and compile a report detailing specific instances of suspected theft. Markets can have different tiers of service depending on the operator/client’s needs. Panoptyc makes sense for operators as a cost-efficient solution to micro market loss prevention. All of these features provide operators with accurate and actionable cases so that they can forget about theft and get back to growing their business.
Smile Compostable Solutions
Team leaders: Frankie Schuster and Michael Sands, co-founders
Co-founders of Smile Compostable Solutions, Frankie Schuster and Michael Sands, are disrupting the single-use coffee pod industry with a commercially compostable option available for private label. The pair have bridged sustainability and convenience with Smile's fully certified compostable pod system and introduced a material that addresses all economic, capacity and performance concerns for the coffee category. Together, the partners are dedicated to building awareness and education by speaking and volunteering at the local and national level on the damaging effects of single-use plastic, the importance of carbon reduction, and the need of end-of-life audits on all consumer packaging. Ten percent of their working hours are spent weekly working with the US Compost Council, US Plastic Pact, Biodegradable Products Institute, Compost Manufacturing Alliance, and other organizations trying to bring sustainability to consumer packaged goods.
Tech 2 Success
Team leaders: John Hickey, Brian Butrym and Darryl Perkins
Team members: Morgan Frazier, Chuck Brower, Matt Godlove, Rebecca Tierney, Marco Luperon, Jayce Martinez, Juan Jorquera, Jim Phelan, Alex Maureau and Daniel Hickey
The Tech 2 Success team helps businesses improve their business by utilizing technology to automate and accelerate business processes. Tech 2 Success provides integrated OCS e-commerce sites, internet marketing, website design, cloud hosting, OptConnect connectivity for micro markets, custom dashboards, operations improvement consulting and IT consulting to vending, OCS and micro market operators and suppliers of all sizes. Located in Queens, New York, and throughout the U.S., the team helps operators increase sales via integrated OCS e-commerce and increase leads via internet marketing. The cloud team secures the data for thousands of users in operator companies every day. As an OptConnect wireless solutions certified partner, the Tech 2 Success team has helped make implementing new markets and connected equipment simple and secure for operators as they pioneer new services. Tech 2 Success was also awarded NAMA’s 2021 Allied Member of the Year.
Team leader: Andy Lin, founder and CEO
Team members: Amanda Tsung, COO, Kuo Hwa Chuang, CCO, Michael Yeh, U.S. general manager
The Yo-Kai team gives its best effort to support its customers. Meeting the expectations of its clients and consistently evolving with new technology are the keys to its success. Within the Yo-Kai team, Amanda Tsung coordinates with all clients, vendors and partners and oversees the internal operation. Kuo Hwa Chuang develops delicious meal and food research with partner restaurants and CPG companies, as well as designs different food and beverage product roadmap. Michael Yeh supervises all operations work in the U.S., including technical, logistic, machine installation and food allocation.
Aaron Hirt, AVI Foodsystems
Burch Food Services Team