As a member-owned business, grocery wholesaler Associated Food Stores operates as a cooperative. With no stockholders, the company is free to prioritize the needs of its customers. “I’m most proud about what we as a company do for the independent grocery store operator,” Vice President Bob Obray says. “Everything we do is for the benefit of our member-owners.”

For the past 75 years, Utah-based Associated Food Stores’ mission has been to strengthen and support its independent members. The wholesaler now services nearly 500 stores, including 42 corporate-owned locations that are part of Associated Retail Operations, a subsidiary company. Associated Food Stores’ independent members are found in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Arizona. The average store is 40,000 square feet, but Obray says its members range in size from as small as 5,000 square feet up to 80,000.

Fred Crosetto founded AMMEX Corp. in 1988, selling disposable gloves from the back of a borrowed van. His business started in the dental market due to the demand from professionals seeking protection from the HIV virus, says President Keyo Gold.

Crosetto, a 24-year-old law student, quickly recognized the need for industrial barrier protection and infectious control products. He built the company from a first month’s sales of 50 cases into a multinational corporation with offices in the United States, Philippines, China and Malaysia.

The Seattle-based company has come a long way since its inception to become a leading importer and distributor of high-quality disposable gloves and barrier-protection products to numerous industries. “Ninety percent of what we do is disposable gloves,” Gold says.

Superior Plus Energy Services regards customers as friends, President and CEO Keith Wrisley says. “We have a culture that is focused on how we serve the customers and how the customers want us to serve them,” he says. 

Based in Rochester, N.Y., Superior Plus Energy Services (SPES) provides energy products and services to homes, farms and businesses in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. The company’s history, Wrisley notes, goes back to 2009, when Superior Plus Canada, a Toronto-based provider of propane, specialty chemicals and construction products, wanted to enter the U.S. market.

For 65 years, Piedmont National has been meeting the needs of its customers for packaging and shipping materials and equipment. It has been operating out of its Atlanta headquarters building since 1967, and it needs to be updated. “We’re in the midst of a huge renovation project to our Atlanta offices,” President and COO Gary Marx says. “We’ve got three buildings here, and one building has just been completed, and the other two are being worked on.”

These renovations will enable Piedmont National to serve its customers more efficiently, many of whom are large manufacturers and distributors, some in the food and medical industries. “It’s about a $2 million project between the building renovations and we’ve ordered all-new furniture,” Marx says. “We have taken this building down to the concrete, and we’re just starting over. We’re leaving the outside footprint the same but gutting the entire interior. The only things that will stay the same are the roof and the slab. We just did that to the building across the street.”

Mooney-General Paper Co. knows its customers have plenty of sources for the products it carries, including national e-commerce giants or big-box stores. But while its competitors may have several of the same products, Mooney-General offers personalized expertise, which enables it to provide custom solutions tailored to the specific needs of its customers. This promotes efficiency and increased profitability for their customers.

“You can go online and order a product, but the website you’re ordering from probably won’t know the specifics of the product or how to best use it,” says Andrea Ribakove, the company’s vice president, board chairwoman and majority owner. 

Since 1929, MFA Oil has remained dedicated to providing fuel to rural communities of Missouri and 15 other states. As a farmer-owned cooperative, its customers and owners are indistinguishable and service has always been its first priority. It’s an approach the company will continue to abide by even as it begins to take a wider view of its industry, according to President and CEO Mark Fenner.

The company is undergoing a cultural shift that coincides with the sale of MFA Oil’s stake in the National Cooperative Refinery Association in McPherson, Kan. The majority shareholder, CHS Inc. of Minnesota, had a right to buy out the refinery and began the process four years ago. Transitioning from owning a refinery to being a refinery customer has not dramatically changed MFA Oil’s day-to-day business, but the company had to rethink its operations because 70 percent of its income during the past 15 years came from the facility. “We’ve had a strategy to shore up those earnings and make more earnings from our primary business without relying on the refinery,” Fenner says.

For more than 140 years, Harvey Fertilizer & Gas Co. has been helping North Carolina’s farmers tend to their crops, whether those crops are tobacco, peanuts, cotton or anything else. The company’s status as the oldest family operated company in the state means its customers know Harvey Fertilizer & Gas will be there for them for the long haul, and it has the experience and knowledge base to help them no matter what they need. “We’ve been here for a long time,” Executive Vice President Gary Floyd says. “That trust and service is what keeps us strongly engaged with most of our customers.”

The company has been operating continuously since 1871, and today its more than 20 retail locations across eastern North Carolina provide its customers with agricultural solutions including fertilizer, crop protection and seed, as well as products for use in the home or garden. Harvey Fertilizer & Gas’s distribution network mainly serves its own retail stores, with the agricultural sector being the largest portion of its customer base. “Most of our customers are actual farmers that buy through our retail locations,” Floyd says. 

When you roam the produce department at the local grocery store, your choices likely are based on flavor, freshness and selection. Chances are, you don’t give much thought to where the fruit was grown or how it ultimately arrived at the store. When it comes to grapes, citrus and other fruits, that’s where AMC Direct comes in.

The Glassboro, N.J.-based company is a division of AMC North America - a group of fresh produce companies that also includes AMC Fazio and AMC Canada. The three companies serve customers with a year-round supply of fresh citrus, grapes, berries and deciduous fruits from growers around the world.

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