Konop Companies celebrates 75 years in business
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Watching their father, Louie Konop, grow Konop Companies, Inc. from a small penny peanut machine route in the mid-1940s into the three-pronged food and beverage service company it is today – Tom Konop, Dave Konop and Mary Borley said they learned early the benefits of hard work and dedication.
“When you grow up in this business, you start out when you were a child,” Borley said. “It is definitely in our blood, the passion we have.”
The trio owns and operates the 75-year-old company, and said they are proud of being one of the largest family-owned food and beverage businesses in the Midwest – offering a full line of services through three divisions: Konop Vending Machines, Konop Food & Catering and Konop Beverages.
The three Konop siblings have their own roles within the company.
Tom serves as president, Mary handles the administrative side and Dave takes care of a route.
“Our parents never made a position for us,” Borley said. “If something opened up that they thought we were qualified for or could do, we were more than welcome to join the company. But, my dad would never have considered replacing someone with us. We just kind of gradually got into it.”
Celebrating its 75th year in business – one their father Louie started after returning from World War II – the Konop children said they can’t help but reminisce about how things started.
“We grew up in it, so as children, we were expected to help out with duties as far as helping the route drivers get their routes ready for the next day because originally it was out of our home,” Borley said. “So, part of our life every day, we helped these drivers get their orders ready. We helped get things organized. We just did everything we could based on our ages.”
Tom Konop said his dad founded the company on honesty, integrity, hard work and fun.
He said this remains true to this day.
“I think fun is a key part,” Tom said. “When you are not having fun, it is time to do something else. We’ve obviously had enough fun that we’re still doing it.”
While the core values have remained constant, Tom said the company itself has evolved over time.
“We just keep trying to improve on what we are doing and taking care of the customer,” Tom said. “You know our business isn’t rocket science – it’s serving quality food and beverages to people in a timely fashion. And we are just always looking at ways to do extensions off of that, or how we can do things more efficiently and serve the customer better.”
The desire for continued growth prompted Konop’s introduction of remote monitoring nearly 15 years ago.
Tom said Konop Companies has been ahead of the game with technology – being the first in the state to adapt to real-time data information systems in all of its vending machines.
“It was a leap of faith back when we did it,” he said. “It was a pretty big expense. But it was a leap of faith to make us more competitive and it worked out in the end.”
Tom said the technology affords them the opportunity to serve customers based on client-driven specifics.
“We know what is in each of our vending machines in all of our markets, at all times, because of the technology and remote monitoring that we are doing,” he said. “So we can service a customer appropriately. We know exactly when to be there. Exactly when it needs to be filled. So we are not wasting trips. We are not leaving machines or markets empty because of all the data and information we have and the technology we have in place.”
Borley said it gives the customer what they want when they want it.
“If they are hungry for lunch, or they want that cup of coffee in the morning, or that Mountain Dew in the morning,” she said, “we know we can get it to them because of this monitoring… We can tell exactly what their favorites are at any location.”
Borley said the transition to remote monitoring was gradual.
“You don’t just dive in,” she said. “You have to gradually get into it so we know that it was right for us and giving us the correct information,” she said. “Now we are to the point where we have it down to a science and it works absolutely wonderful.”
Borley said another example of ingenuity is the Micro Market concepts in break rooms – providing fresh food, snacks and beverages in self-serve kiosks.
Tom said the company takes pride in its complete kitchen and bakery, where it prepares all products fresh in-house daily.
“In the past, there may have been a poor perception of what the food was like in our vending machine,” he said. “Well, our food is made fresh daily, and people are seeing that, so they are buying it. They are seeing that it is different.”
As far as changes over the past seven-and-a-half decades, Tom pointed to society’s desire for instant gratification.
“In today’s world, everything is faster, faster, faster,” he said. “People want their products where they are at and they want them now. And they want to be able to pay for them any way they want to pay for them – whether it be Apple Pay, Google Pay, whether it be a debit card, credit card, cash – so we have that technology in all of the things we have out there.”
Borley said one of the things which sets Konop apart is its more than 140 employees recognizing continued success in the industry is directly linked to their contributions.
The company celebrated its 75th-year last month with a party for its employees and retirees.
Tom said during the event employees who’ve dedicated more than 20 years to Konop were highlighted.
“I had the people stand up that were with us more than 20 years, and I bet you there were 50, at least,” he said. “We are way above the average in the industry on tenure.”
People can learn more about Konop Companies, Inc. by CLICKING HERE.