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Atlantic Coast Exposition Delivers Deals, Education And Camaraderie

Posted On: 6/11/2009

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Atlantic Coast Exposition, ACE, North Carolina Vending Association, South Carolina Vending Association, Virginia Automatic Merchandising Council, vending education, vending business, vending routes, vending machine, foodservice, office coffee service, OCS, automatic retailing, coin-op, merchandising, telemetry

MYRTLE BEACH, SC -- The 55th annual Atlantic Coast Exposition, held last week at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, was met with enthusiasm from operators, exhibitors and organizers alike. Participants cited brisk business on the show floor, well-attended and highly informative educational programming and an enjoyable range of recreational events that brought industry members together in a relaxed atmosphere.

The vending, OCS and foodservice exhibition and conference, co-sponsored by the North Carolina Vending Association, South Carolina Vending Association and Virginia Automatic Merchandising Association, featured 63 exhibiting companies. More than 400 buyers attended and took advantage of a record number of show specials.

The final moments of the trade show exhibit hours culminated with the much-anticipated grand-prize drawing for the "Super Sample Sweep" giveaway, won by Jim Cornaire of JMS Vending (Willow Spring, SC). Cornaire's exciting three minute dash around the exhibit floor to collect as many remaining samples as he could pile into the provided shopping cart was ACE's version of the classic game show "Supermarket Sweep." Vending operators received one chance at winning the grand prize by registering for the convention, and then earned additional chances by visiting the exhibit floor each of the two days, participating in the educational sessions and attending the social events.

ACE's popular Biz Bits educational program, which addresses timely industry-specific issues, attracted the largest participation in the past seven years, according to show organizers. The first session, entitled "P3 -- Planning and Purchasing to Maximize Profit," featured a panel of operators, along with Si Rawls of Vistar and Chico Miles of Vendors Supply, who discussed the challenges of breaking price barriers, marketing price increases and tackling the current economy.

John Ripley of R&T Vending (Charleston, SC), ACE Education Committee chair, facilitated a spirited discussion between panel members Tim Sanford, editor-in-chief of VENDING TIMES, and Ben Ginsberg, Vending & OCS editor and publisher. The two industry icons brought knowledge gleaned from their decades of industry expertise to the program, entitled "Consumer Perception -- Understanding and Influencing." They touched upon topics that included healthy initiatives, the greening of the industry, legislative issues and more. Audience members were also encouraged to offer their experiences and ideas on how to combat some of the industry's negative stereotypes as new challenges arise.

Returning to the 2009 ACE program was the highly popular Maintenance Training School, for which separate registration was required. More than 20 operators and service technicians attended the two-day program which covered topics ranging from general machine setup and installation to servicing refrigeration decks. Instruction was provided by field technicians and service personnel from all the major equipment manufacturers, who covered the components of service on coffee, snack, food and drink machines, payment systems and changers. Mike Graham, who is retired from MEI after a long and distinguished career, facilitated the program.

At its annual awards ceremony, ACE honored Jim Sikes of Vendors Supply (Columbia, SC) with The Barbara W. Short Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in the vending industry over a lifetime of dedicated service. The award was established to honor Barbara W. Short, who served as convention director and director emeritus for the Carolinas-Virginia Vending Convention and Exhibit and the Atlantic Coast Exposition for 25 years before her retirement in 1996, building the event from a small one-state gathering to a trade show and convention of prominence.

Sikes began his career in the foodservice industry in a bakery. He realized that many of his customers were small to mid-size vending operations and that these companies could be well served with one-stop shopping for all their product purchases. With that concept in mind, Vendors Supply of Columbia, SC, was born in 1964. Today, the distributorship has additional operations in North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia and Ohio. Sikes' accomplishments as a business owner and benefactor have been recognized by Ernst and Young, which named him Entrepreneur of the Year in 1996 and invited him to serve as a judge the following year. Vendors Supply has been designated one of South Carolina's Top 100 privately owned companies for several consecutive years. Sikes was also named NCVA's Supplier of the Year in 2000.

Short was the first recipient of the association's Lifetime Achievement award in 1999. The award has subsequently been bestowed on Donald Ray Head, posthumously, in 2000; Ben Ginsberg in 2001; J. Shields Harvey in 2004; Jon P. Brady in 2005; Ralph H. Kiser in 2006, and A. Eugene Rountree in 2008.

The Virginia Automatic Merchandising Association recognized Scott Kiser of Kwik Kafe (Bluefield, VA) as 2008 Virginia Vendor of the Year. The second-generation operator has served on numerous VAMA committees, multiple terms on the board of directors, an extended term as president of the association and, last year, as the chairman of ACE for 2008. He is a two-time recipient of the award, a distinction held by only a few association members.

North Carolina Vending Association Vendor of the Year 2008 honors went to Larry Pugh, general manager of Mid-South Food Service (Aberdeen, NC). Pugh's colleagues credit him with nearly doubling the size of the company since he joined the operation. For 30 years prior to joining Mid-South, he worked in various positions at a major national vending operation. Pugh has served multiple terms on the NCVA board of directors.

For the first time in their history of bestowing a Supplier of the Year award, both NCVA and VAMA selected the same award recipient -- Vistar's Mia McDonough. She joined VSA in Atlanta in 1995 as an account executive and relocated in 2002 to Greensboro, NC, to serve as sales manager at Vistar/VSA Carolina. The position didn't satisfy her desire to interface directly with her customers on a regular basis so in 2003, she chose to return to the roads again as a sales representative. Her volunteer efforts extend to both NCVA and VAMA. McDonough currently serves as secretary of NCVA and has served VAMA as well as the Georgia and Tennessee vending associations in board and committee member capacities.

The awards ceremony was followed by a welcome party, one of many social events that allowed ACE showgoers to reconnect with industry peers and meet new ones. Other highlights included ACE's annual golf tournament, followed by a catered cookout; a racing and miniature golf outing at Nascar SpeedPark; and a family-friendly cookout and volleyball tournament that wrapped up the festivities.

The next Atlantic Coast Exposition will be held in Myrtle Beach, October 14-16, 2010. Visit atlanticcoastexpo.com for more information.