In this series of blogs, we will be featuring different vendors from all over the United States and abroad to showcase the similarities and differences between vending operations and share some insight from vendors to other vendors about the business and how we all can grow.
For today’s blog, we start with my good friend Alan Munson, owner of Chow Time Vending and the man who hired me on as a vending route driver to experience the vending industry firsthand and get a crash course on what it takes to run a vending company. He has been one of my main go-to people for information about the vending business from a first-hand account. This is the story of how he got into vending and how vending has shaped his life:
Alan has been in the vending industry since he was a child, in a matter of speaking. Alan’s father and his father’s business partner, Jerry, bought out an old train depot next to the local high school in Louis, Texas, a small town with a population of 318 people at the time. The two business partners turned the train depot into a two-story arcade with a concession stand. Outside of the depot, renamed “The Hornet’s Nest,” was a soda machine for people to purchase drinks. It was a popular location, some place at which Alan remembered having spent a lot of time. For Alan’s father, it was a successful business with the most innovative games at the time. However, when lightning struck the arcade, destroying most of the machines inside, Alan’s father and business partner had to make a choice about what to do. After much deliberation, they chose to get into full line vending together.
Alan, however, did not start his business until much later, when he decided to leave college. College was not a good fit for him, though, and he stopped going after a semester. He started working a myriad of jobs, but none of them were anything that would take him where he wanted to go. When he saved up enough money, he decided to open up his own vending business. He started by calling locations to see if they wanted a vending machine and eventually got some people to say yes. Before getting those few positive responses, he had to endure receiving many negative ones. The way Alan put it, though, is that for every hundred or so negative responses, that one “yes” makes up for the difference. Those victories would be what would continue to drive Alan through his vending career. Once he had the clients, of course, he needed to get vending machines, and since his father had been in vending for so long, he called him and asked him where he could find some cheap machines. Thus, Chow Time Vending was born in 2001.
Chow Time Vending grew from those first few machines, all handled by Alan, to 4 routes full of machines and 13 employees. Alan operated in Houston and its surrounding areas, such as Pasadena, Kingwood, Humble, Woodlands, Spring, Conroe, Montgomery, Huntsville, Madisonville, Willis, Brenham, and Texas A&M Prairie View. For five years, Alan was chugging away at his business when his father called and asked him for help in San Antonio. Understanding that family was most important, Alan sold his business and moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he assisted his father, who was then suffering from the effects of polio and running a successful coffee shop. Alan’s father wanted to expand his business, and Alan was more than willing to help out open a second coffee shop and run it.
Alan took over the second coffee shop but also wanted to be his own boss again. Alan knew that he liked being his own boss and not working for anyone but himself. He came to San Antonio with a pocket full of money from the sale of his business and a truck with 12 vending machines locked inside, for which everything was paid in full. As he was learning more about the food service industry, he decided to do something more than just help his father with the coffee shop business. Alan reopened up Chow Time Vending in the same way that he had started the original vending business in Houston, calling up potential clients and getting turned down until he could get a victorious yes. He chose to get back into vending because it was a business he knew, and the rush of getting a client was too good to pass up again. He once told me that vending is “addictive” because once one sees the money rolling in, it is difficult to stop.
Alan’s vending business grew to 1.5 routes in San Antonio and the surrounding area, like in Austin, San Marcos, and New Braunfels. At its high point, the business had 5 employees, including Alan. Simultaneously, Alan was also running a barbecue restaurant called Dinky’s Barbecue. It was voted to be the best barbecue in San Antonio, and people loved it because of Alan’s impeccable customer service and desire to always exceed expectations. The vending business and the restaurant business grew side by side with the restaurant growing into three locations, keeping Alan very busy. However, after three years of being in the restaurant business, Alan sold his restaurants and focused on vending full time, which also gave him the added benefit of spending more time with his wife. Alan can still cook a mean brisket, though, and he will not share with anyone his secret recipes.
Understanding vending as well as he does and seeing the state of technology in the vending industry, Alan founded ParLevel Systems with a few other entrepreneurs to bring innovative technology at the right price to the vending industry. With ParLevel Systems, he works to bring insight and clients to the company, among many other things. Over the the past several months, I have been working closely with Alan, learning from his years of experience in the vending industry, which has informed my writing quite a bit. Alan still owns Chow Time Vending, and the business is still going strong today.
Personally, I have a lot for which to thank Alan, especially when he allowed me to help him out in his vending business. I learned so much during my 6 weeks of vending, and I was professionally mentored by Alan, as well. My passion for the industry grew along with my knowledge, and Alan continues to offer ParLevel Systems his charm, insight, and experience.
I asked Alan about his thoughts on running a vending business and any advice he could give people starting their vending business. That section of the interview can be found in the recording below. Feel free to give it a listen!
I want to sincerely thank Alan Munson for taking the time to talk with me about his past, his business, and what he thinks about the vending industry. If you want to be a featured vendor on our blog, please let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to get to know you better and tell your story. There are thousands of vendors out there, and everyone has a different story to tell, something different to offer the industry. I hope you allow us the pleasure to interview you and write your story the way you want it to be told.
Thank you for reading!