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Rapids Wholesale Equipment Sets Up Shop in the Twin Cities

Iowa-based foodservice equipment and supplies dealer opens 19,000-square-foot cash and carry location in Minnesota. 

Rapids Wholesale EquipmentRapids Wholesale Equipment’s new St. Paul, Minn. cash and carry location measures 19,000 square feet and features an industrial aesthetic.While most brick and mortar companies look to grow their business by further developing their online presence, Rapids Wholesale Equipment is taking the opposite approach. The Iowa-based foodservice equipment and supplies dealer, long known for its catalog and online business, has opened a 19,000-square-foot cash and carry location in St. Paul, Minn.

According to Joe Schmitt, president of Rapids Wholesale Equipment, the lack of a true cash and carry dealer in the area and the region's plethora of independent restaurants made the company decide to set up shop in the Twin Cities. "Business up here is pretty decent. The economy in this market took a whack in 2008 but it's actually recovered pretty well," he said.

In launching this new venture, Rapids is not exactly starting from scratch. The dealer has long had a presence in this market through its contract division and its catalog and online businesses have customers in the region. "What we think we will benefit from is that we have been in these markets with our catalogs for 30 years or more. Some of the customers up here will recognize us and our direct marketing experience will help us target the right people to generate store traffic," Schmitt says. "Some of our catalog customers and our contract customers have already been through the door. We have a good customer base and we feel we can serve the smallwares side of the market now. The idea is simple: have product available and have customer service people available to help them."

To that end, Rapids hired Harold Parten, a veteran of the wholesale and resale industries, to manage the dealer's cash and carry location. In addition, Rapids hired two other salespeople to work with Parten. The goal is to hire up to six people within the next six to nine months, Schmitt said.

In addition to housing Rapids' fledgling cash and carry business, the dealer will relocate its six-person contract sales team to this location. And Rapids has allocated space in the warehouse for staging contract jobs in the region.

When developing its Minnesota cash and carry location, Schmitt and the Rapids team understood this business model differs from how the company has operated in the past and sought the perspective of other dealers in the cash and carry space. "This is really our first entry into something this large. The investment in the inventory has been significant," Schmitt said. "I talked to a lot of FEDA members to get some of the best ideas we could. And the guys from AceMart and Dick's Restaurant Supply have been really helpful."

Will Rapids look to set up shop in other markets? "That's kind of our plan but we want to see how this works," Schmitt says.

Rapids new Minnesota location is at: 2475 Doswell Ave., St. Paul, Minn., 55108.