SALT LAKE CITY -- Struve Distributing Co. officially closed its doors on Jan. 24. General manager Kent Larsen said he finalized the closing plan a week earlier, calling it the most difficult decision of his 47-year career with the Utah-based company.
"We wanted to make the call while we could still pay," Larsen said, indicating that he and the small remaining staff are wrapping up the company's affairs and planning to discharge its financial obligations. "Our goal is to make everyone whole," he said. "Manufacturers have been very supportive."
Struve Distributing was founded by Preston Struve in 1961. Larsen has been running the business since the founder's retirement about two decades ago. The company sold coin-op games, jukeboxes and a limited selection of vending machines. The company's sales office, service center and showroom were located in Salt Lake City at 276 West 100 South.
Over the years, distributor margins on equipment sales have seen steady downward pressure due to ever-sharper competition among dealers, Larsen said. This trend has accelerated in recent times due to deteriorating industry conditions linked to the overall soft economy, he added. But distributors could hardly afford to keep reducing margins without end, he pointed out.
"No other industry works on a margin as thin as the amusement industry," he said.
Yet the true cause of Struve's shutdown was not competition from other distributors, Larsen explained, but weak demand among its operator customer base.
"It's really tough out there," he said. "Operators just aren't making money. Until we put the workingman back to work, street operators will continue to have a very hard time. There's really nothing new for the street operators. I've been waiting for a new pin or shuffle table that could jumpstart the street route business, but it hasn't come along."
Struve also sold products to consumers. But the company's consumer business, which normally generated additional income during the holiday season, failed to rally last December.
Mountain Coin Machine Distributors (3753 South State St.) and Vina Distributing (351 West 400 South) are the remaining amusement, jukebox and vending equipment distributors with sales and service offices in Salt Lake City.