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Vending Machines with Pretzels, Cookies and Some Healthier Nibbles, Too

How buying a vending company fills up Bill Graham’s life these days.

Like many parents, Bill Graham—the father of two active and always-hungry teenage sons—has stepped up to the plate on the crusade against junk food, given national campaigns against rising illnesses like diabetes.

And moreover, Graham can fuel healthy-snack options, and does, when selling to his customers—those who he supplies with machines and food from his company, A&M Vending in Cinnaminson. 

Lighted slots still dispense the typical assortment of Doritos, M&M’s and Oreo cookies. But for many firms wanting to nurture better eating habits, Graham dedicates two rows in the vending machines for healthier foods like Natural Wayz soups, Foods Should Taste Good multi-grain chips and low-carb fruit juices.

Graham sits at the helm of an establishment that provides snacks to 159 businesses in South Jersey and Philadelphia. His small office is tucked within a nondescript one-story building on Taylors Lane. 

His arrival at A&M happened as a result of a dismal economy, corporate slashes and a strong motivation to own his own business one day.

For more than 20 years, Graham worked for Verizon, with most of his career there in the role as a senior support specialist. It was at Verizon where he met his wife, Diane, who still works for the company.

“I gave her a tour on her first day,” says Graham, a friendly, low-key guy. “I then asked her to lunch.”

His education at Burlington County Institute of Technology in automotive and diesel technology gave him the skills to become adept at fixing and overhauling equipment.

“My dad and brother are both riggers. I thought that’s what I was going to do,” Graham says.

At Verizon, he worked closely with technical teams and created design enhancements to Verizon’s websites.

In 2008, Graham's department was phased out and he lost his job.

“It’s not easy when it’s all over like that,” he says.

Throughout the next four years, Graham worked for ICT Group and TD Bank doing development work, similar to what he had been accustomed to at Verizon.

But he says the grit and grind of the corporate world began to disillusion him.

“It was always on the back burner to have my own company. I thought, why not try it now, instead of when I’m 60,” Graham, 52, says.

Embarking on a vending business wasn’t something that at first Graham considered. He admits he didn’t have a lot of experience and didn’t know quite what to expect.

“I looked at about 40 other businesses, a lot of them were retail. But, I didn’t want something that was 24/7,” he says, referring to the long and tedious hours that those in retail sometimes work.

With the help of Murray & Associates in Cherry Hill, a real estate company specializing in the brokerage of privately held companies, Graham bought the 28-year-old vending company in November 2010. It had been owned by the Schaeffer Family in Williamstown for the last 15 years.

The mid-size firm supplies machines and food to fitness centers, law firms, manufacturers, service stations, and schools. Local clients included Carquest Auto Parts, Coca-Cola and Harris Tea Co.  

At the end of last year, Graham started looking into the healthy fare niche to offer his clients more options. He says a lot of the effort is trying to come up with foods that will hook vending machine patrons, while offering fair pricing—healthier snacks sometimes are more expensive.

“Some of these items don’t have a long shelf life either, so we also have to be careful about that,” Graham says, regarding foods trimmed of preservatives. 

In his first year as owner—and by drawing on his strong computer knowledge—he streamlined his systems, reconfigured his database and reorganized the way invoices are administered. By year’s end, profits grew by 19 percent, according to Graham. 

Four employees—with nearly 75 years of cumulative work experience—stayed on and made the transition when Graham took over.

These days, the Cinnaminson resident isn’t looking back.

“Even though I’m on my own,” Graham says. “I’m much more relaxed in my own business.”

Christina Paciolla March 01, 2012 at 02:51 AM
I'll just jump in here now before this gets out of hand. Thanks for your assessment "PP." However, we here at Patch are all professional reporters and have our own style. This is Cathi's style and a huge reason she freelances for us. The style of an English essay and journalistic writing are two entirely different things. So whereas some of your observations might need to be changed for a paper in a college composition class, we think it's just fine for our newspaper. I like what you have to say and offer though. Maybe you'd like to blog for us. E-mail me if you're interested. Keep Patchin' everyone. We have some really neat businesses in town that even I didn't know of—and I've lived here my entire live almost!
Christina Paciolla March 01, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Ben, we hope you don't stop reading our site just because you don't like the comments! Not everyone is going to agree, but the important stuff is at the top of the page. We strive to bring you all the local news we can.
vincent3403 March 01, 2012 at 03:45 AM
I've been patiently reading these comments and would like to make a comment as well. Every once in awhile, someone commenting has also been corrected on proper use of terms (ie, blogging versus commenting). And, as has been mentioned, this is more of friend talking to friend. So, it is also not necessary for an editor to point out a commentor's misuse of words or grammar either. We don't need lessons on how to comment. It should go both ways. Perhaps some have been offended that they were corrected on Patch in the same manner. If someone gives incorrect information that's one thing but it's not necessary to correct people on how they say it (especially when there are so many spelling errors as a matter of course here and not everyone is chastised). So please just let us comment without the teacher mentality. It's not done on larger papers; it should not be done here. Thank you
vincent3403 March 01, 2012 at 04:00 AM
It would also benefit Patch if the those writing the articles would try not to take everything to heart. It's part of the territory, like it or not, that those who write for a living are, more often than not, going to get criticized for how or what is written. It's part of the territory. But, it would alleviate alot of this back and forth nonsense if it wasn't taken so personally as to comment everytime. I don't see that with larger newspapers and the writers and editors are excoriated on those comment sections. Sometimes saying nothing at all alleviates the issue; the criticism comes with the job.
Bill March 02, 2012 at 12:25 PM
I think we have strayed off topic........

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