When will it end?

Dec. 22, 2021

This month we say goodbye to 2021, and we do not think it will be missed. Whereas 2020 was dominated by the at-home work shift brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year was shaped by several false starts to the long-awaited recovery of the office marketplace, a vital demographic to the convenience services trade.

The steady discoveries and spread of new variants, responsible for the majority of COVID infections, suggest the crisis will continue well into 2022. As we go to press, the new omicron variant coincided with a spike in searches by Google users asking: “When will COVID end?” 

Whether it ends sooner or later, operators are now well prepared to meet the challenges and will emerge as strong as ever. Support for this statement can be had in the seven operator interviews we conducted for this magazine’s 2021 cover stories. 

We began the year with a profile of Royal ReFresh of Portland, OR. Owner Ryan Harrington emphasized the importance of teamwork. “Despite the uncertainty of when or if employees will return to offices, we are grateful for and amazed by the company’s team members. Everyone has hit this in stride,” he said.

We spoke to Idaho’s Treasure Valley Coffee, a large independent whose specialty is OCS and roasting. Owner Suzanne Boyer remains optimistic about her company’s future. TV Coffee just purchased a new building to expand its existing Boise campus to support future growth.

Ohio’s Maumee Valley Group, owned and operated by the Plassman family, not only persevered through the challenges posed by COVID-19 and its ensuing lockdowns, but also found new opportunities in its wake, giving the three-generation operation extra cause for celebration as it marks 75 years in business.

Jim Evans of New Jersey’s Evans Company told us: “A month into New York’s quarantine, I said to an operator friend: ‘I’m not going to go out like this.’ The industry has survived the financial crisis, Superstorm Sandy, 9/11 … We’ve dealt with skyrocketing interest rates and unemployment, recessions – and we survived. Let alone coffee shortages, gas prices, oil embargoes. We survive and then once again we will thrive.”

American Food and Vending’s Jim Roselando Jr. and Patrick Arone shared how they navigated COVID’s extraordinary challenges by reinventing their approaches to vending, micro markets and OCS. AFV has served the New England market for 40 years.

In Connecticut and Maryland, the industry is getting a dose of new DNA. Legend Food Service’s Kyle Loughran, Nick Duda, Kevin Koehr and Ben Adams are bringing fresh perspectives to the industry.

To close the year, we caught up with Bradlee Whitson of South Jersey’s K&R Market Fresh. COVID tested every premise of the way he operated and challenged him to find a new way to do things.

We thank these operators for sharing their stories of survival and look forward to a new chapter in 2022.

Nick Montano is editor of Automatic Merchandiser and its online counterpart VendingMarketWatch.com. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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