December 2021 - 37

joined K&R Vending 15
years ago, it was supposed to
be a short-term commitment
to help the Bridgeton, NJ-based
family business, which was led by his
father at the time. The company had
instantly doubled its size after acquiring
a local competitor, so he agreed to
take the role of operations manager to
support the transition.
As fate would have it, he's still
there, now serving as president of
the rebranded K&R Market Fresh. As
it happened, he joined the vending
firm right before the Great Recession
(officially lasting between December
2007 and June 2009), a historical
period of hardship for the vending
industry. But little could have
prepared him for the shockwaves
produced by the COVID-19 pandemic,
except maybe a deeply rooted
connection to vending operations.
Whitson, 37, is a third-generation
operator whose earliest childhood
memories harken back to his time
spent at the K&R office or filling
machines on a route. The original
K&R Vending was founded in 1978
by brothers Konrad and Richard
Stutzmann who were working as
custodians in a high school before
becoming vending entrepreneurs.
Konrad, Whitson's grandfather, and
Richard, who died three years ago,
purchased 13 machines - a mix of
snack, coffee and cup soda venders -
placed in six locations. The contract
included a seventh location with a
Pepsi machine that was leased.
" When I was in kindergarten,
they used to pick me up in a vending
truck, " Whitson recalled. " I'd fill the
bottom shelves of snack machines
with my grandfather and grandService
manager Rich Stutzmann shows
off one of the company's maintenance
vehicles with new K&R Market Fresh logo.
Photos courtesy of K&R Market Fresh
Shown here is the original machine
purchase contract that launched Konrad
and Richard Stutzmann's vending
endeavor on Sep. 22, 1978.
mother. During high school, I served
as the route jumper and helped putting
orders away, among other tasks. "
His father, Brad Whitson, was an
engineer for the Campbell Soup Co.
before he joined K&R in 1988. " The
business grew to a point where my
grandfather and uncle could no longer
manage it themselves. My father said
he would come in for a year to help
them get through some things. He
stayed there to this day, and is just
beginning his retirement now, " the
younger Whitson said.
After college, Bradlee Whitson sought
new experiences outside the family
vending business. He took a job selling
software in midtown Manhattan,
but that did not last too long. In early
2007 he received an email from his
father with a copy of a non-disclosure
agreement attached to it. K&R had
entered a contract to purchase another
Bridgeton, NJ, vendor, which would
instantly double the size of the family
business, adding considerable debt
to it, too. " We had dinner that night,
he asked me to come on board and I
gave him the same line of, 'I'll give it a
year to help with things and see how it
goes' - and I'm still sitting here today, "
Whitson said.
The Whitson duo has more in
common than dramatically extending
their time commitments. They
both embrace technology. " By the late
1980s, K&R was already using a vending
management system, " Whitson
said. " We used handheld [DEX] computers
to start to track inventory. "
The company was an early adopter
of cashless vending, remote machine
monitoring and automated warehouse
order picking. The successful deployment
of these technologies led K&R
to USConnect. " Now we offer the
USConnect loyalty platform and their
Savant smart cooler, along with touchless
vending options " Whitson noted.
" If there's a technology that's out there,
we're either using it or have looked at
it very seriously. "
Additionally, K&R was among the
first independent vending operations
to deploy Cantaloupe Inc.'s
Seed vending management system
across all service platforms - vending
machines, micro markets, and OCS
and pantry delivery.
" Cantaloupe ended up being the
best option, " Whitson said. " As a business
owner looking at this, I needed
one spot to control all service segments.
Before unifying all route types,
if I wanted to find out how many Chips
Ahoy I'm carrying and selling, I didn't
like the fact I had to log into a vending
program and see how all my vending
machines were doing. And then I had
to log into a micro market backend
and see how they were doing there. "
And it could get even more
tedious. When working with multiple
micro market platforms, as many
operators do, data on those networks
are managed separately. " Now I have
two or three different micro market
platforms, separately tracking my
Chips Ahoy sales, " Whitson instanced.
" For me, it seemed like there were
misses that were happening because
December 2021 * 37

December 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of December 2021

Editor's Note
Industry News
A True Story
The 2021 Pros to Know Awards
They'll Take it to Go!
Two is Better Than One
K&R Market Fresh
Social Hubs
December 2021 - PCOV1
December 2021 - PCOV2
December 2021 - 1
December 2021 - 2
December 2021 - 3
December 2021 - 4
December 2021 - 5
December 2021 - Editor's Note
December 2021 - 7
December 2021 - Industry News
December 2021 - 9
December 2021 - A True Story
December 2021 - 11
December 2021 - The 2021 Pros to Know Awards
December 2021 - 13
December 2021 - 14
December 2021 - 15
December 2021 - 16
December 2021 - 17
December 2021 - 18
December 2021 - 19
December 2021 - 20
December 2021 - 21
December 2021 - 22
December 2021 - 23
December 2021 - They'll Take it to Go!
December 2021 - 25
December 2021 - 26
December 2021 - 27
December 2021 - 28
December 2021 - 29
December 2021 - Two is Better Than One
December 2021 - 31
December 2021 - 32
December 2021 - 33
December 2021 - 34
December 2021 - 35
December 2021 - K&R Market Fresh
December 2021 - 37
December 2021 - 38
December 2021 - 39
December 2021 - 40
December 2021 - Classifieds
December 2021 - Social Hubs
December 2021 - 43
December 2021 - 44