Hazleton Area Business Citizen March 2014 | Page 7

Promoting a free market in the Greater Hazleton Area Located in Lattimer Mines, General Vending Co. is headquartered in a building which houses the offices, warehouse, and workshop of the operation. No part of the building is quite specific to any one of those areas. Upon entering the building, the first impression is that of a still photo from a moving picture— constant activity on brief pause. What is specific is the notion of its activity of hard, persistent work—the quality that has most contributed to General Vending remaining as one of the few locally owned and operated vending operations in the area. HABC’s interview with Dave DeLessio, the second generation leading this 63-year-old family company, covers the colorful history of a local company surviving and thriving in a very challenging industry. HABC: The competitive nature of business in the Hazleton Area is quite different now as compared to a few decades back. How has this change in competition affected the vending industry in general and your business in particular? Dave DeLessio: Thirty years ago there were a lot of independent vending companies. There were at least twelve, a lot of them family owned, some smaller than General Vending and some a little bit larger. Most have vanished through attrition and by being bought out by larger companies. Now the large companies are being bought out by regional companies! What we’ve tried to do and what we try to maintain since the business was started by my dad, is to offer good service. Hopefully this will maintain our current clientele and help us achieve new business. HABC March 1, 2014 HABC: When did General Vending begin and what is the story behind the beginning? Dave DeLessio: March of 1951. My dad worked for ‘Kleen Dairies’ which branched off into ‘Kleen Vending.’ One of the accounts was unhappy with their cigarette vending machine company and said to my dad, Al DeLessio, ‘You’re so good and you always keep the milk machine running, why don’t you just put a cigarette machine in for us?’ My dad couldn’t afford to go and buy a new machine so he found a used machine for twenty-five dollars. He financed the machine a dollar and a quarter per week until the machine was paid off. That’s how ‘General Vending’ started! HABC: When your dad began the company in 1951 was there much competition, or was the industry in its infancy? Dave DeLessio: Back in the fifties, the industry was mainly cigarette machines. It wasn’t really until the sixties that vending really took root in our area. There were always candy machines. Some people might remember the machines with the mirrors on front where you’d put in a nickel or a dime in and pull a knob. They had been around but, vending, like food and everything else, really hit this market and started to get big in the sixties. HABC: So even the vending industry has seen technological change and improvement. Dave DeLessio: Oh, absolutely. And it’s been ongoing and it hasn’t stopped. My dad was the first guy this side of Pennsylvania to have an electric cigarette machine! Today the latest thing in offering refreshment services is something called the micro-market. We were the second micro-marketer in the state of Pennsylvania. The first one was out in the Pittsburgh area. Basically the micromarket is like having a mini-market inside a facility. It is an open rack system where larger servings are available and where the vending company can offer “specials”. 5