EDITOR'S NOTE: The National Bulk Vendors Association's new president, Steve Schechner, and outgoing chief, Bernie Schwarzli (pictured here), weigh in on the association's achievements and goals. Schwarzli attributes recent successes to industry solidarity. Schechner says membership growth is essential to NBVA's future.
NEWMARKET, ON, Canada -- When Bernie Schwarzli completed his term as NBVA's president, it marked the end to one of the organization's transformative periods. During his three-year tenure, Schwarzli worked tirelessly to redefine the bulk vending organization. With membership on the decline and the economy in the doldrums, his leadership guided bulk vendors between late 2009 and early 2012; many in the association say he leaves behind a stronger, more vibrant industry.
"In all fairness, I have to give a lot of credit to Randy Chilton," said Schwarzli, chief executive of Beaver Machine Corp., a manufacturer of bulk vending machines based here. "The board of directors and the executive committee thought that for a long time we have to run our own association. He was voted in as president and made the first move in making the association self-sufficient. He really started the ball rolling."
When Chilton of Coinstar Inc. (Bellevue, WA) acted to change the organization, NBVA's leading operators and suppliers rallied to the task. "I worked extremely closely with Randy for many nights," Schwarzli recalled. "Then when Randy stepped down as president, he pushed strongly that I take the position over."
Schwarzli stepped into the top spot with some reluctance. While Chilton had made great strides toward the creation of an independent association, NBVA was still far from healthy.
"My first task was to surround myself with dedicated members," Schwarzli said. "I was blessed with a great team that was willing to stand up and put the effort in that was required. The NBVA officers and executive committee were the ones that made it happen," he said. "Together we stopped the financial bleeding and membership loss, so that now we have a solid foundation for this association to go forward."
According to Schwarzli, NBVA has emerged from the past few years not only on a better financial footing, but also with much stronger emphasis on small and midsize operators, who too often had been overlooked by the association.
"Part of my task as a president was to make the NBVA much more welcoming," he told VT. "The big concern the association always had is that the small members had only a limited voice." The policy of making all members feel welcome has created a "tighter group that works harmoniously," Schwarzli said.
In recognition of his work, Schwarzli received the Jane Mason/Rose Schiller Award during the NBVA's 62nd convention, held in mid-March in Las Vegas. It is the highest honor the association bestows, named for the former national sales manager of Leaf Confections (prior to the company's name change to Oak Leaf Confections) and first female president of NBVA. Rose Schiller, whose name also appears on the award, began in the industry as Mason's assistant and later became sales manager of Concord Confections, the maker of Dubble Bubble bubblegum, now owned by Tootsie Roll Industries.
As for the future, Schwarzli remains confident that NBVA's new president, Steve Schechner, can take the association to the next level by increasing membership and creating programs to further improve its health. "Steve has good experience and he's been passionate about the industry," he said.