Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Company buys Ice Makers of Owensboro

By Joy Campbell, Messenger-Inquirer
Published: Friday, January 14, 2011 12:03 AM CST

Clark Restaurant Service, Inc./CRS OneSource has bought Ice Makers Inc. of Owensboro.

The purchase will add $800,000 to CRS OneSource's annual beverage sales and equipment leasing programs, said Steve Clark, president of the restaurant service.

Total CRS sales in 2011 are projected to be $73 million.

Ice Makers' owner Chris Steele is joining CRS as the new beverage program specialist, and four of his five employees also have joined the company, Clark and Steele confirmed.

One employee decided to return to his hometown near Chicago, Steele said.

"This is just a great matchup," Clark said. "Chris has built a strong business over the years and has a great reputation."

Steele, who started Ice Makers 24 years ago, said the sale is a wonderful opportunity.

"CRS is a great company to work for," he said. "We'll be able to take my business to the next level and beyond. There is so much support here and so much more product to sell."

Steele started his business selling icemakers from November to February and then added the sales of juices and Coca-Cola to restaurants, bars and convenience stores. His company also leased a lot of icemakers.

Ice Makers' five employees covered western Kentucky from Elizabethtown to Paducah, northern Tennessee and southern Indiana.

"Now I'm looking for 24 years at CRS," Steele said.

CRS has about 160 employees in Owensboro, western Kentucky, Evansville-southern Indiana, Illinois and Louisville.

The expertise Ice Makers has developed with carbonated beverages and juices will enhance CRS's coffee/espresso/tea and juice programs, Clark said.

"Chris will be filling a void for us; we've never had a beverage specialist," Clark said.

CRS sells a lot of coffee, and in most cases, the company provides the equipment for people to brew the coffee. Other beverages also require specialized dispensing equipment.

Steele will monitor that as well as oversee the sales of all beverage products requiring dispensing equipment.

The acquisition positions CRS to offer fountain service, in particular, to its regular customers. It also opens some new doors for CRS, Clark said.

"We've expanded our territory in recent years, but there is always business in your own backyard," Clark said. "We're real excited about this."

Clark's grandfather, Marvin Clark Sr. started Clark Restaurant Service in Owensboro in 1948.

The older Clark was a restaurateur who had to go to the butcher when he needed meats and to other locations for supplies or equipment.

"There was not one place where he could go to get what he needed," Clark said. "Those were days when guys had real vision."

He talked about getting in his panel truck and parking it on Main Street and making calls, Clark said.

"In those days, he called on a cafe, a hotel and made about 15 calls," he said.

The company president has his grandfather's sales ledger that shows he sold $1,800 worth of goods in August 1948.

"He never looked back," Clark said.

CRS OneSource is a member of Unipro Foodservice distributor purchasing group. The company maintains an inventory of more than 8,000 items including dry and frozen groceries, fresh meats, produce, dairy and disposable products, cleaning supplies and equipment.