2018 Pros To Know

Dec. 3, 2018

Click here to download the PDF of the print edition.  

It’s time to celebrate the best in the business. The following “Pros” are not just successful, but inspire others and drive the convenience services industry forward. In 2018, the Pros to Know list includes thought leaders, entrepreneurs, driven team leaders and mentors. This group of 20 individuals and 3 teams has earned the recognition of others and proven once again that people make all the difference to success. 

Lindel Creed

President Of American Green Dispensing Systems, American Green

Creed has been a key participant in the development of a dispensing system that uses biometrics to verify the dispensing of restricted products. This opens the door for use of many products that could not previously be vended out of a machine. He wants to bring back the use of vending machines over the use of micro markets due to the ability of vending machines to meet Americans with Disability Act requirements. With Creed’s help, American Green has started developing smart vending machines with a touch screen and has expanded the machines use into new markets.

Trish Schneider

Branch Manager, Associated Services

Schneider has kept her “can do” attitude working at Associated Services for 30 years. She is always willing to help others and has done most of the jobs (if not all) at one time or another in the industry. Schneider understands that customer service is the most important aspect of her job because consumers can “coffee” anywhere. This year Schneider developed a close partnership with a local roaster in the area. It was a great success in a large branch that covers Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties, because customers want to buy local — within their communities. She is also focused on satisfying the needs of the Millennials, which make up most of the workforce. This includes offering new products, following trends and anticipating what and how their needs will change in the future.

Scott Phillips

Director, Customer Success, Avanti Markets

Phillips embodies the principles behind “Customer Success.” He is directly responsible for working directly with members of Avanti’s operators network from sharing technical expertise and best practices to onboarding new operators to teach and share insights working with the systems and growing their micro market business. He seems to be a walking encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to the technology that supports the operations of micro markets and he loves to share his knowledge with anyone who will listen. He can often be found assisting others in all aspects of the business. He is one of the friendliest people around and always arrives with a smile on his face and a happy greeting for his customers and his colleagues.

John Peterson

Lead tech, AVS Companies

The constant changes in manufacturing techniques and software updates occasionally make things function differently than they should, challenging operators. That is where John Peterson shines. He reads technical information and interprets it into logical and usable language his team can understand. He works out the “bugs” and communicates often with factory representatives. He is well-known for reading the manual of a new item, performing the processes recorded and then showing the rest of the team. Peterson has a knack for understanding how an engineer built an item, while also being able to explain it to others in everyday language. He is willing to share what he knows and learned both during his years as an operator and in the AVS distributorship.

C T Cromer

Founder / Chairman, Cromer Food Service

Cromer started working in the vending industry at the age of 14 in 1954. With the help of his two brothers Erwin Cromer and Doug Cromer, they successfully operated a small vending company until it was purchased by Wometco Foodservice. During the Wometco years, the brothers would grow Wometco to become the largest vending operator in the Southeast. After 26 years of working for someone else, Cromer decided to start his own company. With a small basement operation, Cromer Food Services was founded in 1981. The plan was to operate a small company with potential two or three routes on the road. Instead, Cromer continued to experience growth based on stellar service and strong personal relationships with his customers. During the first years of his business, Cromer quickly saw that he needed some help with his internal operations if he was going to be able to stay on the road as the face of the company. He asked his brother Erwin to join the company. With this additional help the two brothers were able to open a full line commissary and begin to offer food options that were unmatched from their competition. The business saw explosive growth that eventually included two satellite offices in addition to the corporate offices in Anderson, SC. Today, Cromer Food Services operates a 40-acre complex with over 125 associates. The facility includes a full line Culinary Center, Equipment Refurb Center and Fleet Maintenance Department. The company supplies vending, market, catering and coffee services to over 500 customers on a weekly basis. These customers are supplied through 22 vending routes and 15 micro market routes.

Andy Bream

Vice President, Federal Machine Corp.

Shortly after assuming the vice president of sales role at Federal Machine Corp., a division of The Wittern Group, and meeting with numerous small vend operators and distributors around the country, Bream saw a tremendous opportunity to help small vend operators grow their businesses. He has initiated several programs with his credit background designed to increase sales and profits for this market segment. When Federal assists small vendors and business owners to grow and diversify their businesses with a proven business model it also helps Federal Machine Corp increase their sales and profit. Bream started his tenure at The Wittern Group in 2000 as a credit analyst for Wittern Financial Services and was promoted to credit manager in 2005 and became director of financial services in 2010. In 2015 he was named as vice president of sales for Federal Machine Corp. Through his history in the finance world, he saw several customers apply the techniques and tactics of Federal Machine to their businesses and get results. Being a Champion of Small Business growth is a daily venture for Bream and his team.

Mike Laurer

Director OCS & Water, Five Star Food Service

Laurer has been in the Refreshment Services industry for over 35 years. His experience includes managing both vending and micro market operations, but his passion and expertise lies in office coffee service (OCS) and water. He believes the key to success is staying ahead of the curve on industry trends while delivering the best possible customer service experience. He understands that each customer is unique and requires clear and consistent communication to uncover their true needs and wants. He is also a believer in the concept “If you take care of your employees your employees will take care of your customers.” Laurer is a past president and current board member of Tennessee’s Vending Association. He received his NCE designation from NAMA in 2008.

Steve Orlando

Co-Founder, Fixturelite

As the co-founder of Fixturelite, and a former micro market, vending and office coffee service (OCS) operator for the greater part of ten years in the Phoenix, AZ market, Orlando is a leader in the design, shelving, lighting and fixture category. He is concerned about the industry’s approach toward workplace refreshment areas — breakrooms. He feels there is a trend toward “cookie-cutter” micro markets, as companies like Amazon enter the space. He is also concerned about the quality of materials that are being used, as market shelving and fixture suppliers chase their share of the market. As a result he has committed to providing usefully information regarding the micro market industry and design trends. He reaches out to operators in the Micro Market Design Newsletter and at industry trade shows. His willingness to provide free demos of the Fixturelite design tool shows a commitment to market design and operator success.

Colleen Calahan

Director of Operations, Gimme Vending

As director of operations for Gimme, Calahan fosters operational success and growth for customers in the unattended retail industry managing a portfolio of customer accounts from the moment of signing to full deployment and beyond. Unattended retail has changed so much in the two years since she joined Gimme, with the biggest challenge for the industry being outside competition. Redesigning of convenience stores (think QuikTrip) and the rise of convenience solutions like DoorDash, UberEats and AmazonGo mean the industry can no longer focus solely on how convenient micro markets and vending machines are, but how to better serve people that can easily order anything at the touch of a button. This goes for Millennials and the younger generation in university and the workforce as well. It’s at once health-conscious and pickier. Calahan works so operators can know what to sell and where to sell it, so they can compete in today’s workplaces and schools. Just this year, she not only helped developed a number of projects, but also delivered her first public speech, ever, at SEVA, this past July. Through these initiatives, she has shown that she is dedicated to bringing awesome tech to a historically undeserved industry.

Cory Hewett

Co-Founder and CEO, Gimme Vending

Vending companies are being rolled up by larger players, suppliers are being acquired by larger providers, and Amazon just announced it will open 3,000 new unattended “Go” stores by 2021. Hewett knows it’s a tough market out there. He also sees potential. He has helped customers understand what’s working and what’s not with their technology. For each customer he generates customized and in-depth value reports about 1) how much time their drivers are spending in the field; 2) their actual versus calculated amount of product spoilage and waste; 3) frequency of stock-outs/SKU-outs; and 4) the effect of stock/SKU-outs on same store sales. He also works with each customer’s web designers, providing graphics and content, to refresh the operator’s online presence and technology pages. Finally, Hewett has spent the year working on a brand-new tool for micro market management, so the industry can invest more in merchandising and per-account customization, while making it easier to attract and train new employees.

Jennifer Toomey

Director of OCS and Markets, Refreshment Solutions

Toomey has made a huge impact in a very short amount of time. She is the director of OCS and markets for Refreshment Solutions in Norco, LA, and is focusing heavily on merchandising and preventing shrinkage in micro markets, which she sees as a substantial challenge to profitability. Toomey believes market distribution is another huge problem. Most of the industry schedules vending dynamically, and schedules markets statically due to the fresh food. Toomey is looking for ways to decrease distribution costs in addition to upgrading existing markets and replacing the 30 percent of products that don’t sell. She has been in the industry for 8 years, and is leading a crusade to update markets for Refreshment Solutions.

John Ward

Owner, Serenity Market

Ward’s Rockford,IL-based micro market company began as a vending provider and transitioned into something greater. Ward and his company promote employee retention at area companies using micro markets. Serenity Market’s micro market concept is one of the few benefits a company can offer employees at no cost to the employer. To maintain engagement with his micro markets, Ward has also made advancements with company-sponsored promotions and Serenity Market promos. Serenity matches deposits into customer accounts at grand openings and offers monthly product discount days. Ward is ever looking to advance his knowledge and expand the micro market concept.

Charles Weaving

Data & Technology Manager, Southern Refreshment Services

Bringing innovation to the vending industry, Weaving plays an important role in making vending machines “smart” and tackling the challenge of modernizing vending’s way of business. After earning an MBA at Mercer University, Weaving began to change vending as operations manager for Gimme Vending. As the first full-time employee for Gimme, he took Gimme from forty test units to over 1,500 fully-functioning deployed field units in less than a year through rigorous work with engineering, deployment, development and support. In placing utmost emphasis on customer needs while creating efficient deployment methods and employing superb customer service, Weaving brought Bluetooth/wireless DEX technology to the forefront of machine inventory, accountability and sales. By providing a more effective and efficient solution for day-to-day operations, Weaving expects to see a resurgence of creativity and new ideas for vending altogether. As data and technology manager of Southern Refreshment Services, Weaving combines his business skills, knowledge of back-end vending operations, and his technological expertise to reduce waste, increase efficiency, monitor accountability and solve problems for one of the nation’s leading vending, micro market and coffee providers.

Katy Melstrom

Vice President of Marketing, Three Square Market

Melstrom has worked with Three Square Market for just under 6 years, during which she has seen the company grow, change, adapt and become a huge part of the executive decisions made. Three Square Market made the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) policy company-wide this past year. Melstrom has been looking forward and considering the implications it could have for customers during the next few years regarding advertising and marketing. How do we maintain quality relationships with clients without putting their information at risk? A part of GDPR is slimming down what data is actually needed versus what is just extra, from number of contacts to what is asked for those contacts to provide. Because Melstrom is always pushing herself to be better and more knowledgeable, her actions at Three Square Market move beyond just marketing to all things, including the next trends and current industry standards.

Rick Leib

Chief Information Security Officer,

Three Square Market

Three Square Market knows digital security is of the utmost importance to customers and everyone involved in micro markets. The company feels lucky to have added an expert like Rick Leib as chief information security officer in 2016. Leib has improved the company’s security both externally and internally. As a CISSP, his vast knowledge on industry standards and confidence in implementing them inspires a secure feeling. With Leib driving the ship, Three Square Market can be confident in its direction on digital security and ensure users there is an industry expert in their corner who is doing what’s necessary to keep their information safe.

Bob Tullio

Consultant, TullioB2B

Since selling his business in January of 2017, Tullio has been an active industry consultant, focusing on content creation, strategic planning and business development. Using his training and experience as a journalist, he has written over 20 columns for VendingMarketWatch.com, providing operators with an inside look at how he helped to build a successful business from the ground up. Tullio has established himself as an industry thought leader with a genuine interest in helping operators succeed and suppliers to connect with operators. While much of his writing is focused on fundamental business development, his approach to selling strategies is timeless — constantly being updated to include digital marketing and changing buyer attitudes.

Bill Bartholic

Regional Sales Director – Northeast,

USA Technologies

Bartholic has become respected nationally by traveling throughout North America to work closely with operators. He is dedicated to ensuring operators understand the need to invest in technology and payment solutions for customers, otherwise they will get left behind. He attends trade shows and engages with business owners, participating in speaking engagements focused on technology and the future of payments. He helps to express the need to operators to innovate their business. He does this by leveraging his past experience as an operator prior to joining USA Technologies. Bartholic understands the unique industry challenges. He also understands the power of technology and how it can positively impact these businesses. He is not only an industry advocate, but an expert in this space.

Mike Lawlor

CRO, USA Technologies

Lawlor has proven that he not only is a leader within the USA Technologies organization, but within the industry. He serves on the NAMA board of directors and is heavily involved in ensuring that USAT is not just a supporter but an advocate for the industry alongside NAMA. He has presented on cashless payments and technology related topics at trade events and shared his experience through industry panels.

 Neil Swindale

President, VendCentral

Swindale has been in the vending industry for over 20 years in a variety of positions. He has called on vending operators in the West as a rep for Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestle waters, as well as running his own full service vending company, Pacific Refreshments, for 5 years. He currently is the president and founder of VendCentral, a marketing agency 100 percent focused on helping vending, office coffee service (OCS) and micro market companies be successful online navigating the ever-changing digital sales and marketing landscape. VendCentral was founded ten years ago and has built over 350 industry related websites, and is currently working with over 50 big independent breakroom refreshment companies on a monthly basis with digital marketing strategies.

Mia McDonough

Senior Account Executive, Vistar of Georgia

McDonough’s dedication to her customers and Vistar is relentless. She sells in a consultative manner. If it isn’t good for a particular customer, she doesn’t sell it to them. This past year, McDonough has seen consolidations become a real challenge, not only for operators but also for suppliers. Both are trying to offer products that appeal to the changing demographic, including healthier items that are more affordable. McDonough believes that we are all here for a purpose, that it is our responsibility to give back to the world and to do what we can to help people. She has devoted much of her private time working closely with the Old Fourth Ward community on multiple projects. She worked collaboratively with the City of Atlanta to obtain grants for beautification projects, the O4W Street Topper project, Children at Play signs as well as initiating Neighborhood Watch. Helping people is important to McDonough whether those people are in her community or colleagues in the industry.

Mike Ferguson

President & Founder, VMAC Solutions

(Vending, Markets and Coffee)

Ferguson is using his 30+ years of vending, markets and office coffee service (OCS) experience to help others. He is reaching out to operators in need of an independent agent to assist in selling their business as well as growth business decisions in regard to today’s top challenges, including technology such as vending management systems (VMS), warehouse picking automation and micro markets consultation. Ferguson has done it all from starting an OCS and vending company, selling it, to working for the largest vending operator in the U.S.


365 Retail Markets Customer Team

Team Leader: Jonathan Leung, Manager, Customer Service

Providing 24-7 global support is one of the top priorities for the 365 Customer Team. They were instrumental in fully implementing two innovative customer service platforms, the Zendesk — a powerful customer support platform that tracks, prioritizes and resolves support requests, and 365 Help Center — an all-new knowledge base and support portal, designed to put the information needed right at operator’s fingertips, whenever and wherever they need it. Not only does the 365 Customer Service team put the customer first, they are passionate about what they do and truly care about the success of operators. Their patience, attentiveness and knowledge are a huge part of why 365 has become a global leader in the micro market, foodservice and vending industry. They deal with the challenge of ever-changing technology and live customer service demands. They have had over 200 percent growth in the department to ensure they always have someone live and available to customers.

Let’s Improve! Healthy Vending, LLC 

Team Leader: Kofi Sasu, Owner/Operator

Team Members: Kofi Sasu & Shari-Ann Sasu

The Let’s Improve! Healthy Vending, LLC (LIHV) team doesn’t give up. A bespoke business that places the healthy products a location wants, it consistently trys to educate consumers about new healthy brands via vlogs. The team holds taste samplings, virtual giveaways on social media and places advertisements on touchscreen devices. LIHV also believes in helping other operators with location tips. “We’re not in competition with anyone that’s trying to bring healthy vending to a community,” the team says. They were also a recent Dan Mathews NAMA Scholarship recipient.


Team Leader: Lotan Granot, Technical Product Manager

Team Members (left to right): Eitan Klein, Efrat Kallai Tamler, Lotan Granot (Team Leader), Ravit Bitran, Tom Yaish, Shai Belz, Erel Lindzen, Tal Goldstein (not in photo)

Nayax’s goal is to increase operator revenue and customer convenience by accepting all dominant cashless payments by any method, in any country. The team working to achieve this is the payments team, responsible for the development and integration of payment systems, as well as liaising with banks and payment institutions to ensure that Nayax’s products meet the standards and highly secured regulations to be certified and approved for transactions.

To achieve the company’s goals, the payments team has already implemented more than 13 different domestic and international alternative payment methods (APM) since the beginning of 2018. By building a roadmap, it closely watches the market to engage with any upcoming payment method. In addition, the team keeps the traditional credit and debit card industry in mind and is continuing to integrate with new acquirers, with APMs the top priority. Nayax’s payments team has also designed an API for QR payments, which it offers to the industry. The payments team is a critical aspect of Nayax’s operations.