Jim Variglotti and David Karley founded Cuyahoga Vending October 1988- 33 years ago with a few vending machines and the desire to take care of the customer. In honor of National Boss’s Day (October 16), we thought it would be fun to share the story of our roots with an interview with our founders.
Q: How did you get into the vending business?
Jim: I got into Vending business by going to refrigeration school. I studied with an older vending mechanic and he got me a job as a mechanic with Canteen. I gave up a job as a welder making a lot more money, but my heart was not into it.
Dave: I was hired into the vending business by Jim, who at the time was my girlfriend’s uncle. He needed a route driver, and it sounded interesting.
Q: Can you speak to the The Cuyahoga Group’s (TCG) core values – quality, integrity and family – and how they’ve shaped your working relationships?
Jim: Core values is really common sense – treat customers how you want to be treated. Value your customers, treat employees with respect and try to understand all parties.
Dave: Quality of service is key. Anyone can sell Snickers, but it’s service that makes the difference. Integrity is so important. When you promise something, you must deliver. And as far as family, we are all a big family working together.
Q: What was the biggest business lesson that being a founder of TCG taught you? A funny memory or story that helped shape the business?
Jim: Most of my lessons were learned the hard way and all were expensive! – LOL (I don’t want to be negative, but I hope this brings a smile to everyone).
The stories are endless. I could write a book and I smile about all the great times in the vending business. Here are two of my favorite stories:
- The first week of business it was just Dave and I. Dave was on the vending route and we had just bought a used truck that needed new tires. We went to pick up the truck mid-afternoon and I was driving back in front of Dave. Dave was in the truck with the tires, but quickly learned the tire store didn’t secure lug nuts while driving over the Detroit bridge. All of sudden two tire wheels passed Dave up! The tires bounced off a brand-new BMW—Dave almost went over the bridge and the company almost didn’t make it week one! (I had to buy Dave a drink that night)
- Dave and I worked together at two other companies before starting Cuyahoga Vending. Dave got stuck in an elevator between floors – he called me on the elevator phone so we spoke for a couple of hours. Needless to say, he was pretty upset.
I have hundreds of stories with hundred’s people – most are cherished.
- The biggest lesson I’ve learned is everybody is important, from the person cleaning bathrooms, to the President of the company. They are all important people.
- The stories are endless. There was the time I almost accidentally blew up Jim and myself, starting an acetylene tank on fire.
- Rebuilding vending machines on Saturdays, while drinking Bloody Mary’s that Dan Hurley’s wife Mary Beth made.
- Hiring the late Marlene Kosakowski to start our commissary. I trained her for 20 minutes and said have fun! She looked at me like I was nuts, then proceeded to build the commissary into a professional running unit. She is sadly missed.
- 23 years ago, I asked a girl from the commissary out on a date. Her name was Cindy. We have been together ever since. Her last name is now Karley.
Q: What is your advice for the next generation
Jim: Stay humble and know you didn’t achieve success by yourself, it it takes effort by a lot of good people every day!!! Understand business is like baseball you don’t get a hit every time you’re up, but you keep swinging.
Dave: My advice for the next generation would be… Work hard, treat people fairly and remember “Better Days are Coming!”
Q: What makes working in a family-owned business so special?
Jim: Working with family is challenging but even more rewarding. Family businesses have a hard time transitioning to second generation – however it has worked for us. I expect positive results and taught good work ethics, which seems to work with our family and team. Real grade of company is when times are tough, like with this virus, and everyone has done fantastic. I’m a very proud parent and employer.
Dave: Working in a family business makes it feel like home. I often mistakenly call work “home”.
Thank-you Dave and Jim, for the insight and time. We appreciate your efforts, without the both of you, we would not be here.
As Jim always says, “Take care of the customer and the customer will take care of you.”