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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.”

FbS February 27, 2012 at 12:27 PM
way to go Bill!! I commend you for this..
Anna February 27, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Congratulations Bill!!!
Geri Davis February 27, 2012 at 06:35 PM
What a great story on a great guy!! We're SO proud of you, Bill!! Charlie & Geri
Grate Teacher February 27, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Oh yeah, well my favorite flavor of ice cream in vanilla! And as a teacher that can't find time to make a vending machine to dispense ice cream becaue I work a very demanding 2 hours maximum a day, I think you should invent that! Now you'll have to excuse me but I have to go take a nap in study hall followed by a nap during lunch period.
Meryl Wood February 28, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Hi Bill !! Wow !! congrats on your business venture !!!! And going on the healthy tract or is is track !!!! Nice article !! Someone , who used to be my boss at Bell Atlantic !! Once told me that if you worked for the phone company you can accomplish/do anything you set your mind to !! And you are definitely proof of that !! Hello to Diane my pal from Verizon....!! Who was so patient with all my questions when we worked across from each other !! Best of luck to you !!
Patch Proofreader February 29, 2012 at 03:29 PM
"active and alway-hungry" should say "active and always-hungry" Also, the grammar is very bad in this article. Patch really should hire a legitimate proofreader to look over all articles before they are published. It would be easy enough to find a freelancer and email articles to him/her for a quick check before they go up on the site. It would increase the validity and legitimacy of the journalism being conducted here. Just my two cents.
Christina Paciolla (Editor) February 29, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Thanks for the "two cents" Patch Proofreader. You can always e-mail me directly with any mistakes you come across. My e-mail is christina.paciolla@patch.com.
Billy Pilgrim February 29, 2012 at 03:56 PM
Are you getting ready for the National Grammar Rodeo too? I heard it is in Canada this year! Thanks for pointing out the obvious deficiencies in this free local website. No doubt those few errors totally discount anything of value that is offered. If I were the editor, I would most likely offer you change for your, "two cents". If, however, you are using the site as a word search of sorts, then I suppose that you are getting value from this.
Catherine Laughlin February 29, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Hi Patch Proofreader, thanks for highlighting a spelling mistake. Even the New York Times is guilty of a spelling mistake sometimes. But, I'm not sure what you mean about the bad grammar, though. In any event, I hope you enjoy and learn some fun and interesting stories about the residents in Cinnaminson in my columns. Keep reading.
PP a.k.a. Grammar Fan February 29, 2012 at 07:43 PM
"And moreover" is redundant. Just like you starting a sentence in this comment with "But" and ending it with "though" - you only need one of those, not both. "Assortments" should be "assortment" - there's one assortment of several products in the machine. Graham dedicates rows TO healthy foods, not for them. " "with most of his career there in the role as a senior support specialist" should be "spending most of his career there in the role of senior support specialist" or "spending most of his career there as a senior support specialist." "It was at Verizon where" should be "Verizon was where" or "It was at Verizon that." "wasn’t something that at first Graham considered" should be "wasn't something Graham had initially considered." I'm not going to continue, or to ever do this again (I promise, don't worry Christina), but if people are being paid to write articles for this site, they should at least do quality work. I know many GOOD writers looking for jobs and freelance assignments who would give you better stuff than this. Billy Pilgrim, so what if the site is free? It's too much to ask for it to also contain good quality writing? The writers are paid, and thus should be held to some sort of standard. I'm sure Christina wants to be proud of her Patch site, and using some of her editorial budget to hire a proofreader or copy editor would go a long way toward making that hope a reality. I'd love to attend a grammar rodeo, by the way. America desperately needs one!
PP a.k.a. Grammar Fan February 29, 2012 at 07:46 PM
In more on-topic commentary, Bill sounds like a wonderful guy and I commend him for what he's doing. It's always good to have healthy on-the-go food snack options! :) Catherine, thanks for this interesting profile on a great local man. Sorry to call out your grammar issues. I know it's rude; I just can't help myself. Like I said in my prior comment, I promise to never correct another Patch article.
Billy Pilgrim February 29, 2012 at 10:24 PM
You are correct. I do believe that your constructive criticism could have been provided in a more subtle, less vitriolic manner. If you were truly looking out for the benefit of the site an email to the editor would have been in order. Your motive was to publicly shame somebody. Here's a little anecdote. When I am flying, air traffic controllers will always critique my plan, speed, judgement, approach, etc. But you know what? All they really want to do is be right where I am. Doing, not watching. Making someone feel smaller so you might feel better is a rotten way to be. That's what I think you were trying to do, but then, that's just my two cents.
Ben Goodwin March 01, 2012 at 02:35 AM
You are not completely correct Grammar Fan. "And moreover" is fine. Just as "and furthermore" is fine. Assortments is correct also. There are various types of Doritos, M&M's and Oreo cookies in case you haven't shopped lately. I will stop there since I don't want to lower myself further to your level. I think these Patch columns are meant to be friendly, as if one person was conversing with another. They are not meant to be academic papers. I agree with Billy Pilgrim comments. You are a rude person just out for some misaligned praise. This is one of the reasons I've stopped reading these sites. Shame on you.
Christina Paciolla (Editor) 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 (Editor) 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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