Automatic Merchandiser’s third annual Pros to Know is a compilation of this year’s top individuals and teams who are leading initiatives to help their companies and the industry overcome challenges and succeed in an ever demanding marketplace. The award highlights those who promote industry innovation and growth. In 2016, just 25 individuals and 10 teams were selected for this coveted title out of more than 130 nominations.
For a PDF download with pictures, please click here.
2016 Pros to Know Individual (Listed alphabetically by company)
Jen Tonio, Marketing Manager, 365 Retail Markets
Tonio, marketing manager for 365 Retail Markets, leads all strategic marketing and communications efforts, in addition to managing media relations, branding, internal communications, social media and website development. Tonio is a frequent presenter in NAMA’s Micro Market Seminar series and is a member of NAMA’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN). She works to help train and educate operators on the latest micro market and vending technologies as well as industry best practices and leads the planning and organization of 365’s MEET user group. Tonio studied marketing and communications and obtained her degree from Oakland University.
Gary Joyner, President, Advantage Refreshments
Joyner has more than two decades of experience in the industry. He has previously owned three vending businesses and is currently a distributor for Federal Machine Corp. and president of Advantage Refreshments. Joyner’s primary concern is assisting existing vendor operators with growing their companies and bringing entrepreneurs into the vending industry. Rather than focusing on upcoming challenges, Joyner concentrates on sharing out-of-the-box thinking on how to get good high dollar volume locations and how to increase sales and profits at existing locations his customers currently operate.
Sherrie Flower, General Manager, Associated Services
Flower, a 30 year veteran of the OCS industry, has undertaken overseeing every aspect of Associated Services, located in San Leandro, CA. Flower helped lead the company out of the recession and has battled shrinking profit margins and increased competition by investing in both training and streamlining products and inventories. Her examples of excellence have made her a role model for Associated Services employees who have called her “a true leader in our industry.” “Sherrie has been a big inspiration to me and quite a few others,” said Trish Schneider, branch manager at Associated Services. “She is a great mentor to all of us here at Associated Services.”
Chris Lilly, Vice President of Technology, Best Vendors
Lilly has served as the Chair of the NAMA Vending Data Interchange Task Force since its inception and has led the group’s development and publication of two popular industry technical standards. Lilly led the development of complex technical standards with a group of competing technology suppliers, demonstrating strong leadership and an understanding of the concept of teamwork; he undertook the voluntary task of leading a group of industry members towards a common goal in order to benefit operators across the country. The VDI Task Force has gained a reputation for integrity and hard work and this is directly the result of Lilly’s dedication and commitment.
Tom Britten, President, Britten Management Services
Britten has broad-based operations and marketing experience in all aspects of food service, vending and distribution. In his career he successively progressed through executive positions at Macke, Service America, and Canteen where he became vice president. In 2003, he formed Britten Management Services LLC, a full service management consulting firm specializing in business performance measurement systems and profit enhancement. He is a recipient of the NAMA chairman’s award for legislative action and has been published in a number of trade journals.
David Johnson, Director of Foodservice Sales, Chobani
Johnson has been instrumental in the growth of Greek Yogurt in micro markets and vending. Johnson has been with Chobani since 2011 when he was brought on-board as the company’s first distribution development manager. In March 2016, he was promoted to director of foodservice sales where he has been responsible for all broadline and vending distribution while managing a team of regional business managers. Johnson began his career with WSMP/Pierre Foods in 1996 as the regional business manager in the Southeast along with a key focus on the Canteen corporate business. From there, he moved to Mom ‘N’ Pop’s Country Ham as VP of sales and then to WOW Foods as director of sales through 2011.
Glenn Butler, CEO, CTO Services, LLC
Butler is an accomplished business leader and technology innovator with more than two decades of experience in both entrepreneurial ventures and large corporate environments. He is a founding member of the VDI Task Force and co-founded Streamware and VendScreen, Inc. As the founder and CEO of CTO Services, LLC he provides high-level strategy and consulting services to technology-driven companies of all sizes and stages of expansion. He is a 2014 Pro to Know and specializes in mobile-to-mobile (M2M) system design/development, cloud computing strategy & implementation, mobile application design & development, software development, technology strategy assessment & design and standards for interoperability of different technologies (and between systems for vending, OCS and micro markets).
Kirby Newbury, CEO and Co-founder, DiscountCoffee.com
Newbury’s 35 years of food and beverage distribution experience started with Coca-Cola in Florida, where he later joined Standard Coffee Service and quickly learned the OCS business. Moving back to St. Louis, MO, in 1998, Newbury pioneered the (ICS) Internet Coffee Service industry with his wife and business partner, Cherri Huffman Newbury. The pair built the website www.DiscountCoffee.com and together with Cherri’s retail experience and Kirby’s OCS experience started selling OCS products online. Newbury recognized the internet as a medium to communicate and offer OCS type products and created a new marketing and distribution opportunity to expand upon the traditional OCS Industry.
Darnell Huppert, Vending Manager, Farner-Bocken Company
Huppert’s career in vending distribution spans 28 years, with the past five years managing all aspects of the vending/micro market segment for Farner-Bocken Company located in Carroll, IA. Huppert has been involved with the Iowa Automatic Merchandising Association for more than a decade, spending 16 years as a board of directors member and two years as president. During that time he has helped develop a relationship with the Department of Inspections and Appeals that oversees vending and retail. With Huppert’s help IAMA was able to get the department to reduce the fee increase for vending in a bill that was introduced last year. He additionally worked to help streamline an exemption micro markets must receive in the licensing process through this department.
Steve Orlando, Co-founder, Fixturelite™
Orlando is the co-founder of Fixturelite™, and a former micro market, vending, and OCS operator with ten years of experience in the Phoenix, AZ market. His vending business grew by nearly tenfold before being sold in January of 2016, so he could focus on Fixturelite™. Orlando’s goal today is to deliver guidance and solutions to the micro market and OCS operator, helping them retain existing customers, compete for new business, and increase sales. Utilizing his past industry know-how, he designed Fixturelite™ to help operators create a first-class micro market environment and experience, for what is becoming known as the workplace café of today. Orlando is a member of NAMA, AAMC and CAVC, and contributes to online industry communities.
Stan Lee, Territory Representative, G&J Marketing
Lee, a 25 year veteran of the vending industry, has been a board member of the South Carolina Vending Association for more than 10 years, giving of his time to act as a supplier liaison to the board in planning events and educational sessions that built industry knowledge and camaraderie. Lee is known as an innovator in the industry and uses that skill to help his customer base see the future that is ahead. He steers them towards helpful tools that will help them succeed in an ever changing industry marketplace. He is a graduate of NAMA’s Executive Development Program and Auburn University.
Joseph Elias, Founder, The Happy Camper Coffee Company
Elias is the ‘chief nice guy’ at the Happy Camper Coffee Company, an office coffee service organization based in Richmond, VA. Elias and his wife, Kelly, created their OCS operation as an evolution to their existing company, Happy Camper Productions, which raises funds for more than 50 nonprofit organizations through community events, happy hours, and even single day music festivals. The employees of the clients on the company’s route are invited and encouraged to attend. Elias provides coaching, training, and mentoring to individuals interested in starting their own OCS routes or adding office coffee service to existing vending routes using the plans and operating manual that he created and refined during the launch and expansion of the Happy Camper Coffee Company. Additionally, the company only offers fair trade certified coffees and has a full line of recyclable single cup options, too.
David Ben Avi, Co-founder and CTO, Nayax
As founder and CTO of Nayax, Ben Avi guides the company in developing the best solutions for its customers and their consumers. Ben Avi has led the development of VPOS Touch, Nayax’s solution for cashless payment options and a telemetry system integrated into one device. Ben Avi wanted to ensure that VPOS Touch allows consumers to experience the personal touch of their neighborhood store combined with the convenience of a 24/7 unattended, automated operation. Ben Avi’s forward-thinking ensured that VPOS Touch incorporates a hi-res touch screen allowing consumers to view the necessary FDA calorie and ingredient lists.
Bill Lockett, Sales Director, Nayax/VendSys
For more than three decades, Lockett has been a proven leader in industry technology. Lockett began his vending software career with Rutherford & Associates in the early 1980s. In 2000, Lockett joined inOne Technology where he remained for five years before joining Crane Streamware for seven years. Lockett moved on to become a sales manager with Nayax/VendSys, where he has succeeded in helping the company become a leader in cloud-based VMS.
Jared Detwiler, Operations Manager, One Source Office Refreshment Services, Inc.
Detwiler has worked for One Source Refreshment Services for the past 13 years. After graduating from Shippensburg University, he joined One Source as a route supervisor. After three years, he moved into the operations manager roll and in early 2013 began a company-wide technology rollout with Cantaloupe Systems, leading the company through the transition of adopting route management, VMS and cashless. Detwiler’s current goals include company-wide cashless deployment, expanding their micro market business, OCS technology implementation and improving customer experience.
Vic Pemberton, CEO, Pepi Foods
More than 30 years ago, Pemberton created what is now one of the leading vending, micro market and OCS providers in the U.S., the Pepi Companies. Pemberton has led the company through many advances, such as transitioning to 100 percent cashless and launching Traction and Pepi 2020. He led the team that launched the new Executive Forum for NAMA, bringing together top industry experts in Silicon Valley for the inaugural event. Pemberton is a board member of NAMA and is a Certified Executive Coach and Certified on Profiles International Assessments. This year he launched a new business opportunity for vending in conjunction with convenience stores.
Mike Weisser, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Corporate Officer, SandenVendo America, Inc.
For 20 years, Weisser has challenged SandenVendo America’s fundamental ideas of customer service, quality and integrity. As a former vending operator, Weisser is a product of the industry and as such, truly cares for its survival and growth. Weisser played a significant role in SandenVendo America’s rollout of its Micro Market Design Group, a company diversification that, since its launch in 2014, has seen revenues increase by more than 400 percent. Weisser will continue to find solutions to industry challenges such as helping operators understand the power of connectivity and the potential revenues available from advertising and finding the “sweet spot” between wireless telemetry and interactive touch screens.
John Ward, Owner, Serenity Vending
Ward entered the vending industry in 2002 when he purchased his first machines. He grew his Rockford, IL-based vending business for a decade before beginning the transition to 100 percent micro markets with Three Square Market in 2014. Today Ward remains one of the only operators to transition to all micro markets and has helped advise others on the challenges and opportunity of such a model. Ward constantly hits micro market challenges head on, specifically keeping each market fresh, and engaging customers in promotions.
Jim English, CEO, Sprout Retail
English’s experience in the vending industry goes back to 2005 when he became leader of the Mars Snackfoods US Sales team. That experience and the relationships he developed in that role led him to identify the opportunity for enhanced payment and consumer connectivity in the industry. In 2009 he started Sprout Retail and has spent the past 6 years supporting the deployment of wireless technology, collection of machine level data and development of card and mobile-based consumer platforms for payments and rewards. His background includes sales and finance management roles with Mars and Kraft Foods and consulting experience with Accenture and The Boston Consulting Group.
Kurk Johnson, Vice President of Sales, Three Square Market
Johnson is a true micro market thought leader. Before taking on the role of vice president of sales at Three Square Market, Johnson worked as the first official distributor of Three Square Market under the Lieberman Companies in the Minneapolis, MN area. He is an avid micro market advocate and has been the leading sales representative and promoter of Three Square Market for the past three years. Johnson believes micro markets aren’t simply for large locations, but for small and medium-sized locations as well. Therefore he took on the Micro Market Equipment initiative to find affordable, quality micro market equipment so Three Square Market can serve any location size.
Heidi Chico, Chief Executive Officer, U-Select-It
Chico has a proven track record in revitalizing market growth, expanding distribution channels, and streamlining operations and business processes. Recognized as an innovative thought leader within the industry, she has a unique perspective forged by her strong spirit and extensive industry knowledge. Her experiences and industry insights are built upon a foundation of innovation, versatility, and a customer-centric approach. Recent initiatives led by Chico include leading the team that introduced the development and deployment of Point-of-Sale software, championing the company’s commitment to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, ensuring compliance with American Disability Act requirements, and facilitating new methods to deliver controlled solutions for the industry.
Jim Turner, Vice President of Deployment Services, USA Technologies
Turner joined USA Technologies in 2003 following a 23-year career with The Coca-Cola System worldwide where he led Coca-Cola’s intelligent vending project to bring operational performance and consumer activation to cold drink equipment. Today Turner is responsible for bringing intelligent vending to unattended retail operators and leads channel partnerships for USA Technologies. As vice president of deployment services with USAT, Turner’s contributions are greater than the expectations of his day-to-day role, as he exemplifies the type of employee that goes above and beyond the call of duty to bring viable and intelligent vending solutions to the table. He is considered by many in the vending industry to be the architect of intelligent vending.
Warren Philips, President, VALIData Computer & Research Corp.
Founder of VALIData in 1978, Philips has pioneered software and interfaces to virtually every significant vending equipment and electronic advancement for more than 37 years, including: (1978) first micro computer software for vending; (1981) first moneyroom computer software for vending; (1984) first flex route scheduling; (1987) RouteTel Telemetric Data Processing; (1992) first vending DEX-cash audit; (2000) RouteSail Millennia; (2005) first Windows mobile software for vending and more. Philips’ forward-thinking mentality has led VALIData to install its software solutions in more than 700 route-based companies across the U.S., Canada and abroad.
Mike Kelner, Managing Partner, Vending Biz Broker LLC
Kelner began in the industry more than three decades ago as the president and CEO of Consolidated Vendors Corp. where he built a $36 million full service, six branch vending, OCS and dining operation in the upper Midwest. Today as the owner of Vending Biz Broker LLC, Kelner works closely with vending operators around the country to improve the financial performance of their businesses, as well as help operators prepare and plan for exit or retirement. Kelner has an in-depth knowledge of the business through more than 30 years as an owner, operator, investor and intermediary. He is a senior business analyst, a member of NAMA, and the International Business Brokers Association.
Jeff Rawlins, National Account Manager, Vistar
Rawlins is a true industry veteran. He began his career in the mid 1970s when he joined Servomation, a West Coast vending and OCS operation. He soon moved to the distribution side of the business with Servatron and eventually became the vice president of sales for the company. When VSA (forerunner of Vistar) acquired Servatron in 1991, Rawlins moved to the manufacturer side of the business for two years, serving as national sales manager for vending and OCS for Slim*Fast!. Sensing an opportunity in OCS distribution in Southern California, Rawlins started Solid Gold Distributing Co., growing the business to $25 million per year in sales. In 2002 he left Solid Gold to join Vend Catering Supply. Rawlins currently works to find the fastest, most cost effective way of servicing customers. He was awarded the 2013 Coffee Service Allied Member of the Year by NAMA.
2016 Pros to Know Team (Listed alphabetically by company)
Team Leader: Tom Murn, President
Team Members: Mike Olszewski, Howard Goldstien, Chris Brown, Robyn Azus, Robin Greenfield and staff
Headquartered in Farmingdale, NY and operating in the New York tri-state area, The Answer Group has become a leader in the vending industry through strategic investments in technology and having a creative mindset. The company continues to add cashless and telemetry units to all micro markets and vending machines and deploys all new Media machines with built-in touch screens. It also uses advertising on vending machine screens as a means to generate additional revenue and promote same store sales. The Answer Group is always the first on the block to try something new, making them a sought-after partner with many industry manufacturers. The company prides itself on teamwork and its associates who deliver the quality service guaranteed to its customers.
Crane Merchandising Systems
Team Leader: Steve Williams, Manager of Professional Services
Team Members: Jeff Morgan (not pictured), Ben White, Chris Fulton
The Streamware Professional Services Team, with combined industry experience of more than 85 years, believes that one of the major challenges in the industry this year is the increase in need of healthy products in vending machines. To help operators adjust to this change, the Professional Services Team works with operators utilizing the Vendmax software to do a thorough analysis of available products and find the correct fit/mix of products to satisfy the need for healthy options. Showing the revenue impact by product and machine helps operators retain and even exceed their revenue expectations. The team works closely with each operator to help drive businesses to greater profits, better inventory control and better employee retention. Team leader Steve Williams was a 2015 individual Pro to Know and has worked to instill in his team the drive to work harder and smarter with operators.
Custom Data Solutions, Inc.
Team Leaders: Michael L. Nudi and Denise L. Fullerton
Team Members: Charles R. Matvchuk, Danielle L. Lee, Tanya E. Hanzel, David J. Gioia, Brian R. Harris
In 1981, Custom Data Solutions (CDSI) opened its doors in Romeo, MI with the spirit of designing, developing and delivering, high quality, cost effective technology solutions to its customers. Some 35 years later, CDSI’s team of dedicated and motivated members provides its services to many small-to-large companies that manufacture and distribute products in the vend, food service and c-store channels, as well as two of its first three customers. Although technology has evolved over the years, and keeping up with the demands of more robust, cost effective solutions remains a challenge, CDSI has an unwavering commitment to provide quality solutions that stand the test of time. Already underway, and ongoing in the months ahead, CDSI will continue to develop and implement leading edge technologies that will enable its customers to drive revenues in a positive direction based on the most accurate sales information and analytic tools available.
G&J Marketing and Innovation
Team Members: Dan Kozlak, Amber Starr, Thad Drum, Shannon Shook, Ken Shea
The G & J Marketing team is constantly thinking about how they can address customer needs and provide innovative solutions that help all of their stakeholders to succeed. The team introduced category programs that offers micro market operators a total turnkey solution for sourcing, merchandising and promoting leading brands in micro markets. Additionally they initiated an internal focus on Quality Sales Calls — training sales people to deliver value to customers by offering consumer insights, implications and practical solutions to test and implement innovative products and programs.
The Marketing team recognized the potential of micro markets in the early stages and understood that many of their manufacturers were retail experts. Today they work with key operator customers to develop, execute and manage micro market promotions, collaborating with customers to track results and generate reports to measure the effectiveness.
Team Leaders: Cory Hewett and Evan Jarecki
Team Members: DeJon Tebought, Liz Jarecki, Steve Shao, Paul Woody, Adrienne Leggett
The Gimme team has built its business around great hardware and software tools to collect accurate information about an operator’s route. The company invests in interface and design to build software that makes it simple for all employees to keep information accurate in the field, regardless of prior tech experience or training. This year Gimme hired its first data scientist to lay the groundwork for specialized A.I. tools that will automate the process of planogram optimization, on a per machine level. The company was also awarded its first invention patent, which addresses a primary data challenge faced by the vending industry and covers a communication device for vending machines and the method of using it for bi-directional transmission of data from vending machine and computing device. In 2016, Gimme was awarded Automatic Merchandiser’s ‘Product of the Year’ in the technology category.
JS Business Services LLC
Team Leaders: Jerry Eisenberg and Stan Josephson
Eisenberg and Josephson have more than 65 years of experience in owning, operating, buying and selling vending and office coffee service businesses. Josephson previously owned CSS Vending Co. Inc. and Coffee Service Systems while Eisenberg owned Exclusive Services Inc. before the pair came together to create a brokerage company. As former operators, Eisenberg and Josephson know what it means to own, grow and sell a vending company and have taken that knowledge to other operators to help ease the process of selling or purchasing a vending business. JS Business Services values integrity and confidentiality above all. Josephson and Eisenberg are former members of the Board of Directors of the NYS Automatic Vending Association.
Majestic Vending and Services, Inc.
Team Leader: Maryann Piazza, CEO
Team Members: Robert Ferone, Roberta Hayes, Stephen Herr, Alexandria Crimmins, Valerie Piazza, Stephen Piazza, Evelyn Rogers
Despite being heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Majestic Vending and Services, Inc. refused to give up. For the last four years the company has focused on rebuilding and has expanded with strategic partners. The team decided to identify areas that Majestic was excelling in and built on the foundation of their products and service business model gaining momentum to include procurement contract management and consulting division for vending, office coffee, water delivery, green cleaning supplies, safety gear and Majpro special events to enlarge its geographic reach to oversee and satisfy its customers efficiently and effectively. This in turn allowed Majestic to reduce the gross expenses and grow their profit margins. The Majestic Vending and Services team is celebrating its 20th year in this vending industry.
Merus Refreshment Services
Team Members: Lesley Nelson, Tom Gwaltney, Jaden Angle, Tony Bequette, Daniel Free, Jamie Lightcap, Ian Rose, Steve Gilcrease, Steve Bailey
Facing increasing pressure and competition from national and multinational companies, Merus Refreshment Services rolls up its sleeves and gets to work. Its sales team constantly seeks to be a part of the communities it serves, such as chamber memberships, churches and service organizations. Additionally, the company focuses on introducing new products such as cold brew coffee to meet the consumer demand for modern and specialty products. In order to respond the desire for more variety, the company ramped up its bean-to-cup program this year. It also instituted a major email marketing program that touches both its customers and prospects up to 15 times per year. The Merus team constantly attempts to ask the right questions of its clients so that it can truly exceed expectations.
PayRange Deployment Team
Team Leader: Paresh Patel, CEO
Team Members: Dave Daya, Kim Hellner, Nemisha Patel, Hans Huffman, Steve White, Lisa Jurries
Though the vending consumer is changing the way they pay, the PayRange deployment team works diligently to ensure that operators are prepared to offer consumers a modern payment solution that fits their needs. The PayRange deployment team trains operators on the PayRange mobile payment solution and helps implement it as well, spending a lot of time on general education including webinars and in-person training. The team has worked with hundreds of operators over the past year who are now better prepared for the shift away from cash. While PayRange is a technology company, it is also very passionate about the vending industry itself as the entire deployment team is comprised of veterans from vending.
The Pepi Companies
Team Leader: Vic Pemberton, CEO
Team Members: Donnie Pemberton, Jenny Hendrix, David Pemberton
The Pepi Companies, headquartered in Dothan, AL, is continuously expanding and evolving to meet its customers’ needs. This year the family-owned corporation grew its business profitably through several initiatives, such as launching a new Pepi HomeStyle food service program, plus implementing and executing Traction, an entrepreneurial operating system. With the help of Jerry Wilson, the Pepi Companies team also developed a new Opportunity Based Strategic Plan called Pepi 2020. The leadership team stays active in the industry by participating in key events, including NAMA’s 2016 Executive Forum.
Congratulations to this year's Pros to Know!