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.

Since its start 11 years ago, Sheppard Redistribution Inc. has enjoyed annual double-digit growth. “It’s mostly due to our people,” owner and President Bill Sheppard declares. “We try to empower every single person in the company so what they say or what they do is important.”

The company also gives them the ability to make important decisions. “We have the attitude that we’d rather have them do things and make a few mistakes than not do anything at all,” he says. “We don’t come down [hard] on them, just as long as they’re learning from it.”

Based in Oaks, Pa., Sheppard Redistribution is a redistributor that serves customers in the Mid-Atlantic and greater Pittsburgh regions. 

NOW® Health Group got its start more than 45 years ago as a sideline to the founding family’s soy products business. But Elwood Richard and his brothers, Louis and Bill, never expected to be major players in the natural products market.

NOW easily fits that description today as a top-selling brand in health food stores and an award-winning manufacturer. The company is dedicated to providing customers with a comprehensive approach to wellness by offering more than 1400 high-quality natural and affordable products, from nutrient-rich foods and supplements to personal care and sports nutrition items. NOW products are sold throughout the United States and 65 other countries. 

“We are a one-stop shop for a lot of retailers,” says Dan Richard, national sales director. “Our target customers are health-conscious individuals.” That market is growing as more people place an emphasis on good nutrition, fitness and overall wellness.

A focus on customizing supply chain solutions for its quick-service restaurant and foodservice customers is a hallmark of Consolidated Distribution Corporation, LLC (CDC), which marks its 25th anniversary this year. 

Says CDC Chairman and CEO J. Mitchell Rader, “Our employees have an ingrained culture of customer service. If we are doing our job, the customer feels as though we are a seamless part of their organization.” 

Based in Lemont, Ill., CDC serves the quick-serve, fast-casual and casual-dining restaurant markets with supply chain, redistribution, warehousing and storage, promotion, premiums fulfillment, logistics and transportation services. 

Safety products are not difficult to come by for construction companies, manufacturers or others who need them the most. Although many distributors carry gloves, hard hats and other essential equipment, the companies within the Safety Marketing Group (SMG) go one step further when it comes to service and product knowledge.

“Today, everybody sells safety products, but they just put it in a box and ship it and may not always know what they are or how they work or how the product protects the worker,” says Mike Smeaton, President-CEO of the distributor-owned cooperative. “We’re dedicated to safety and saving lives, and have embraced that responsibility. The [maintenance, repair and operations] distributor is a generalist, while SMG distributors are safety specialists. This is what separates SMG distributors from everyone else that is selling safety equipment.”

Some firms might look at their modest size as a weakness, but not Schuster Electronics. Instead, its scope gives the company more speed and flexibility over its larger competitors, President Mike Fine says.

When a customer has an issue, “We feel that we can effectively react immediately, where larger distributors would have a more difficult time to react quickly,” he explains. “It might take months before they react.”

Based in Cincinnati, Schuster distributes electronic components. “Our sales are driven by connectors, terminal blocks, displays, powering supplies, cable assemblies and switches,” Fine says. 

The Schuster family established the firm in 1904 as an electrical contractor. Over time, “The company changed and evolved and got into distribution of radio and electrical appliances,” Fine says.

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