At the tail end of the recession in 2009, Jim Brinton, president of Evergreen Vending, decided to launch into a new enterprise that would not only reinvigorate his operation, but the entire industry — micro markets.
When Jim Brinton, president of Evergreen Vending, felt the impact of the 2008-2009 Great Recession, he was concerned. His 34-year-old vending operation based in Seattle, WA, was weathering the turbulent economic times, but the future didn’t look as bright as the past. His concern deepened as he visited other vending operators around the U.S. in the capacity of NAMA Chairman. “I was feeling the same pain as the operators I was seeing across the country,” he said. With businesses closing or reducing employees, vending locations were disappearing. Wage freezes or reductions were leading to significant decreases in revenue. With no major changes to the vending industry since glass front vending machines and the bill validator, operators found it hard to highlight their service versus their competitor and drive the higher prices they needed to maintain profitability. Many saw a bleak future. However, visionaries see things differently. That is why, despite this time of uncertainty, Brinton decided to launch into a new enterprise that would not only reinvigorate his operation, but the entire industry — micro markets.
Micro markets were a much needed solution to Brinton’s concerns thanks to their ability to attract customers willing to pay higher prices for a greater variety of food as well as meet demands of an increased number of larger locations. In addition, the recovering post-recession economy made it an even more promising time to launch a new workplace refreshment segment.
“I often say the stars aligned,” joked Brinton about how he got into the micro market business. And he also credits it for keeping him in the industry. “I might not be here — my company that is — without micro markets,” Brinton added seriously.
The job he always returned to
Brinton began his vending career in 1976, at age 17. He installed a vending machine in his father’s auto supply store because employees kept enjoying his soda without paying him for it. Once he had one machine, he started looking for other places he could install the venders. When Brinton left for college he turned the business over to his younger brother to run for him. “It wasn’t his passion,” explained Brinton, who had to return to run the company. He grew his business by 250 percent in the next year, organically and by buying a few routes from other operators. Then in 1985, still young and full of too much energy, Brinton decided to also pursue a career in law enforcement with the City of Seattle after the encouragement of some friends. After 10 years, the unpredictability of the job led him back to vending full time. Since then, Evergreen Vending has grown to include 54 routes and 165 employees operating from four different locations throughout Western Washington and Oregon.
An industry is born
After the challenges of the recession, Brinton knew his company’s future had to be different. Probably the biggest change he made, both for his company and the industry, was going into business with another operator on a self-checkout system that did not use RFID tags, but allowed users to scan the existing bar codes on products. Up until that point, the systems marketed to the industry had needed RFID tags affixed to each product which added labor and physical label costs. Brinton thought there had to be another way and placed a few kiosks in locations for testing in 2009…