Automatic Merchandiser

OCT 2011

Automatic Merchandiser serves the business management, marketing, technology and product information needs of its readers including vending operators, coffee service operators, product brokers, and product and equipment distributors in print.

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C O V E R S T O RY Untapped revenue H 26 Midwest independent grabs small locations with thriving honor box business. Low overhead By Emily Refermat, Managing Editor ow to serve smaller locations has always been a challenge for vending operators. The answer, according to one operator, is an old one – honor boxes. Mark Legler, owner of V.E.N. Enterprises, Remington, Ind., has a thriving vending business, half of which consists of honor boxes. No maintenance, easy servicing and minimal upfront cost compared to vending make up for the lower revenues from honor boxes, accord- ing to Legler. He has some vending accounts, but only because certain locations have multiple shifts with too many people to remain honor- able. "I'd have all honor boxes if I could," he said. Getting new accounts is easy because of the small number of honor box competitors, but a quar- ter of Legler's new business doesn't evolve into long-term contracts. The attrition rate means he is continu- ously adding new business. 'IT SOUNDED LIKE FUN' Before his vending company, Legler worked in the trucking industry. When the company he worked for moved to another town in the fall of 2000, Legler wanted to do something else, something close to home and different. During this time he ran into Harold Gooden who operated a 100-account honor box business in the Remington, Ind. area. Gooden wanted to sell his operation and retire. "It sounded like a fun thing to do, better than trucking," said Legler when he decided to buy the business in September. He wasn't thinking long term, but he knew from the start the key to success was getting more locations. As Legler started knocking on doors trying to add honor box accounts, he discovered a vending niche for locations around 20 to 75 employees. "The factories were cov- ered, but the smaller places in vend- ing were not being served," said Legler." He decided to add vending services for these locations. Currently, Legler has 150 vend- ing accounts and 2,500 honor box accounts and serves a 70- to 80-mile radius around Remington. The revenue is roughly equal between honor box and full-line vending accounts. He started out renting a por- tion of a friend's garage for his warehouse, but quickly outgrew the space and rented a block building Jim and Ann Elliott, married for over 60 years, come into the V.E.N. warehouse to pack honor boxes three days a week. "I never met such dedicated workers," said owner Mark Legler. Automatic Merchandiser VendingMarketWatch.com October 2011

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