To be a successful distributor, Triple Crown Beverage Group knows it must not only carry the brands its retail customers want, but it must also provide the service convenience stores and gas stations need. “Being that reliable partner for the retailer is critical to long-term success with that retailer,” General Manager Nick Williams says.
Customers can be confident that Triple Crown always has their best interests in mind because Triple Crown is narrowly focused on the beer category. The company will never try to sell its retailers on another product or shoehorn in something its clients don’t want. “I have one singular focus for that retailer: their beer category,” Williams says. “If their category grows, I grow.”
Triple Crown Beverage is comprised of three distributing businesses with a common ownership that came together in 2009 to form one overarching organization. Each of the three companies – Eagle Distributing of Huntington, W. Va., Spriggs Distributing Co. of Ironton, Ohio, and Eagle Distributing of Ashland, Ky. – still maintains their own building and market, but share sales and management services.
The company traces its roots back to 1934 when Spriggs Distributing began operating in Ohio and Kentucky. Spriggs’ territory in Kentucky eventually voted to go dry and founder Guy Spriggs sold the business to his son, Sonny Spriggs. “Sonny was an influential figure in our organization,” Williams says. “He really helped mold the business into a very professional organization for its time.”

It used to be that a kitchen fryer consisted of just a thermostat, gas valve and on/off switch. But as technology continues to progress, manufacturers have found new places to stick circuit boards and microchips, even in advanced foodservice machines.
Today’s fryers, for example, can cycle on and off automatically, filter oil without human input and use less oil. The irony of such automation is that even as it makes the machines simpler and more efficient, they become impossible for the layperson to repair. “The more sophisticated the equipment becomes the more need you have for companies like mine,” says Bruce Hodge, president and COO of General Parts, a distributor and servicer of foodservice equipment and parts.
Large chains such as McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A often won’t even let technicians open up their equipment unless they’ve received the proper certifications. Equipment is expensive, complicated and extremely sensitive. Franchisers thrive because of consistency in their food and each piece of technology in their kitchens must be calibrated in precisely the same way across every location to ensure a chicken sandwich in Buffalo, N.Y., taste the same as one in Lafayette, Ind.
“If you don’t know what you’re doing you can really screw up their product,” Hodge warns.

As a member-owned business, grocery wholesaler Associated Food Stores operates as a cooperative. With no stockholders, the company is free to prioritize the needs of its customers. “I’m most proud about what we as a company do for the independent grocery store operator,” Vice President Bob Obray says. “Everything we do is for the benefit of our member-owners.”
For the past 75 years, Utah-based Associated Food Stores’ mission has been to strengthen and support its independent members. The wholesaler now services nearly 500 stores, including 42 corporate-owned locations that are part of Associated Retail Operations, a subsidiary company. Associated Food Stores’ independent members are found in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Arizona. The average store is 40,000 square feet, but Obray says its members range in size from as small as 5,000 square feet up to 80,000 square feet.
The company’s own stores are spread across five banners. With 19 locations, Fresh Market is Associated Food Stores’ largest chain. Associated Foods also operates Macey’s, a family-focused value format, Dick’s Market, Dan’s and Lin’s Fresh Markets. The latter four brands were acquired from former Associated Food Stores’ members. The company decided to keep the original store names because of recognition and reputation in their local markets.
However, Obray says maintaining the separate brands creates some redundancy in marketing and makes efficiency more difficult. “There is really not a lot of overlap when it comes to the different brands in different markets,” he says.

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