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W.Va. vending company going down under

September 01, 2000

W.Va. vending company going down under



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer


CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Some 400 soda vending machines made by workers at Royal Vendors Inc. in Charles Town are on their way to Sidney, Australia, where they will provide cold refreshments to the thousands of players and spectators at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games that open Sept. 15.

It sounds like a lot, but 400 vending machines come off the assembly lines every day at Royal Vendors, Raymond Kohlhepp, senior vice president of sales and manufacturing, said Friday.

Two Royal Vendors employees, Joseph Richardson and Ivan Benafides, are being sent to Sydney to help install and maintain the machines for the Olympics.

Making soda machines for the Olympics is old hat for the 13-year-old local manufacturing firm, which employs 700 workers. Royal Vendors made several thousand vending machines for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Ga., in 1996, Kohlhepp said.

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The company makes vending machines for Pepsi, 7-Up and Dr. Pepper, but Coca Cola is Royal Vendors' biggest customer. All of its soda vending machines are made in Jefferson County.

"We ship machines worldwide to 22 different countries for Coca Cola," Kohlhepp said.

Royal Vendors opened its plant at the Bardane Industrial Park 13 years ago and business has been growing ever since, Kohlhepp said.

"We came into prominence about five years ago, and we've had tremendous success," he said.

The machines that come off the assembly line are basically the same, only the graphics that are applied to them tell what company's products they are selling. The company also makes machines for independent vending companies, Kohlhepp said.

Royal Vendors' biggest competitors are Vendo, a California manufacturer, and Dixie Narco.

Dixie Narco, like Royal, got its start in Jefferson County, but moved to South Carolina in 1990.

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