Zepole Restaurant Supply Co., a Bolingbrook, Ill.-based foodservice equipment and supplies dealer opened a branch location in St. Cloud, Minn.
At the moment, a total of six Zepole employees run the operation, including four in contract sales, a director of design and a senior project manager, according to Gary Thiakos, president of Zepole. The facility includes some office space and a small warehouse. And from that location Zepole will primarily handle contract equipment sales and smallwares.
Zepole’s St. Cloud branch will serve a variety of operator segments, including restaurants, retailers and schools, Thiakos says. “Those would be the primary customer categories,” he adds.
The idea of expanding Zepole was not a new one, though. “Expansion had been on my mind for quite some time. It was just a matter of how and where and who,” Thiakos says. Those questions all but answered themselves with relative ease in this instance.
Thiakos had known Mike Engle through their mutual involvement in Pride Centric Resources, a dealer-based foodservice equipment and supplies buying group. Engle had previously worked for a dealer that was part of Pride but had since been sold. Thiakos got word Engle was looking for a change so the two reconnected and started having conversations about working together. That led to Engle joining Zepole and opening the dealer’s St. Cloud location serving as its vice president of operations.
“We had to find the right fit because culture is non-negotiable,” Thiakos says. “I can’t say I actively pursued this, either. We got into expansion mode not by acquiring any company but by hiring someone. He’s lived in that market and worked there for his whole career. And we were always on the lookout for the next opportunity. One of the other considerations and opportunities — and it goes back to why we chose to expand in St. Cloud — a lot of Mike’s work in the past was out of state and in other markets in the U.S. So, he’s good at operating independently and remotely.
“There were several other opportunities out there for him, too,” Thiakos adds. “Once he made the move to Zepole, though, others he knew started to ask Mike about what he was doing and why and from there we started to build a team. I do see there’s a lot of potential to grow outside of the markets we are currently in, particularly as the Minnesota brand continues to thrive.”
While this may be Zepole’s initial expansion effort, Thiakos predicts it won’t be the last. “We were able to bring this level of talent to our company because of our culture and who we are as a company. We think that will become more visible as we grow,” he says.