Stacey Guerin jumped into foodservice equipment supplies sales in 2011 when the former owner of R.M. Flagg Restaurant Equipment approached her husband, who was an employee there at the time, about buying the business. It was an opportunity the couple had always wanted — to own their own business. The shift from teacher and stay-at-home mom was a good fit for Guerin, who has always been fond of the food and hospitality industry. The equipment dealer now supplies thousands of clients in Maine, from restaurants to schools, nursing facilities, c-stores and more.
Q: As an active participant in the community, what are some of the philanthropic events R.M. Flagg Restaurant Equipment supports?
A: One project we are especially proud of is our work with House in the Woods, which is a free retreat for veterans and their families to find healing andpeace through the Maine outdoor experience. A few years ago, they approached us about donating a coffee maker, but because we personally also find a lot of peace in the woods and nature, and know our veterans need these opportunities for healing when they come back from active duty, we knew we wanted to do more for them.
We partnered with Excell Foodservice Equipment Dealer Network, our national buying group, and together elicited donations from various manufacturers to help build a complete kitchen in their new lodge. We also donated the kitchen design services as well as storage, delivery and install. All in all, the kitchen donation was worth more than $50,000.
In addition to House in the Woods, we have donated equipment and gift certificates to other organizations, including the Maine Air National Guard and a group serving developmentally challenged children and young adults. We have also opened up our demonstration kitchen for organizations to use. We have hosted appreciation events for teachers, meetings for Girl Scouts, single mother shelter fundraisers, and for four years we have sponsored a baked bean cook-off for Meals on Wheels in our demo kitchen.
Most recently, the local chapter of the American Culinary Federation has been using our demo kitchen for monthly meetings.
Q: Why is it important to give back?
A: I think the foodservice industry is full of people who are nurturers with welcoming spirits and that’s why they likely went into the hospitality field in general. That’s why I believe we have always had widespread support when we engage in these philanthropic endeavors.
I also love Maine and the people of Maine, and because we are a small, rural and relatively poor state, it’s important that we support each other. Even simple acts of kindness help people and their families here.
Once, through an Excell conference, we were tasked to do something positive with a picnic basket. We bought bagels and cream cheese, drinks, napkins, forks and spoons, and simply put the spread out in a park that we know to be frequented by homeless families with kids. We just set the food out for everyone, and they were astounded at the fun of our pop-up picnic.
Q: You are also a public servant as a state senator for Maine. How did that come about?
A: I served in the Maine House of Representatives for four terms, and this year is my first term in the Maine Senate. I want to see Maine prosper, encourage a strong business climate and make sure the state is a safe place for kids to grow up with a good education. I believe legislative policy drives that. If we drive away good paying jobs and ruin our environment, then Maine won’t be the place we want it to be.
It took a lot of knocking on doors and talking to people about what is important to them to earn the opportunity to serve, but it’s easy for me to talk with people and it’s something I enjoy — this is why I love doing cold calls for R.M. Flagg. It’s kind of like fly-fishing; if you don’t get a response, you just cast again and again.
Oh, and just for the record, I’m certainly not in it for the money; Maine has laws where citizen servants are paid only nominal amounts, so I need to keep my job at the company and hire people to cover for me when I am in session. When in session, I commute almost every day to the capitol in Augusta to represent southern Penobscot County. I have also worked a lot of nights and weekends at R.M. Flagg when we’re in session, so it really requires an extra commitment to do both, but I love it.
Q: What are some of the bills or work in the House and Senate you are most proud of?
A: I am the lead on both the business and the labor committees, and I am proud to say I have been able to work on policies that help Maine workers and businesses; we’re at nearly full employment in the state right now. Most recently, I am proud of my work on the restoration of the tip credit [which allows restaurants to pay servers below the minimum wage, assuming their tips make up the difference or exceed it], which was banned in Maine — one of the first states to do so. Restoring the credit was imperative to servers and restaurant owners, many of whom I knew through my foodservice business. Many businesses would have undoubtedly gone out of business with server jobs being lost had the tip credit not been restored. I am on the board of directors for the Maine Restaurant Association, which helped me understand the ramifications of this important legislation.
Q: What is your daily work like at R.M. Flagg when you’re not in session?
A: I love doing cold calls for the company. We’re a family business, so I also do other things like HR and social media, putting out stock, maintaining an urban demonstration vegetable garden out front and supporting my husband Joe in any way I can.
One of our sons is Flagg’s general manager, and two of our sons are part of the delivery crew. My 95-year-old mother still helps with filing and bookkeeping, and even comes with me on street sales. I will walk in the back door of our clients or new prospects and introduce myself and ask if they need anything, and my mom will write down the name of the restaurant and orders for follow-up when I come out. Once, we did 60 cold calls starting early in the morning working until 7 p.m. My mom said, “Do you think we should head home?” but I wanted to do just a few more calls. You don’t hear many people say things like that anymore!