GRBJ Article: Pub. March 20, 2015

Bar and restaurant supplier growing like brew pubs

BBC Distributing has compostable products for green-thinking customers.

March 20, 2015

By Pete Daly

BBC Distributing Co., previously known as Bar Beverage Control since its founding in Grand Rapids 40 years ago, changed hands in 2013 and now has business across the entire Lower Peninsula — including southeast Michigan — and in northern Indiana.

The bar and restaurant supplier’s revenue jumped 40 percent in 2014, and now it needs to increase its employee roster from 17 to about 25.

BBC Distributing, whose principal owner is Ed Stasiak of KSS Enterprises cleaning supplies and equipment, also moved its operations in November. It was in an 8,400-square-foot warehouse on East Paris Avenue SE; now it is in its new warehouse and offices in an 86,000-square-foot facility on Steele Avenue SW in Grand Rapids, just east of U.S. 131.

Joey Ghent, sales manager at BBC Distributing and part owner, said the expansion of the company’s products and services in the past year-and-a-half — especially its move into southeast Michigan late in 2014 — have put it in a class by itself.

“We are a very unique company as far as what we do,” he said, because none of its competitors carries as large a variety of equipment and products as BBC. About the only thing it does not supply to bars and restaurants is food, he noted.

“I’m everything but the food guy,” he quipped.

The original Bar Beverage Control company was focused on selling and installing soda fountain systems and draft beer line systems. It also sold and maintained liquor-pouring control systems to enable bar management to accurately monitor the volume of liquor sales.

“We are now a restaurant supply company, as well,” said Ghent.

The new BBC Distributing expanded its product line to include almost everything a restaurant uses except food, beer and liquor. Its customers now also include some food service operations at casinos as well as colleges and universities, events companies and corporations.

BarFly Ventures, which has a number of food-and-beverage establishments around Michigan and is based in Grand Rapids, is one of BBC Distributing’s customers.

Of course, being based in Beer City, BBC Distributing also counts a lot of craft brewers and brew pubs among its customers.

Ghent said the company’s product lines run the gamut from restaurant/bar furniture to the beverage dispensing systems; fountain syrups, juices, energy drinks and coffee; smallwares for tabletop, buffet/catering, table and bar service; cleaning products and equipment; paper products; and now “eco-friendly products.”

BBC Distributing is an exclusive distributor of World Centric Zero Waste Solutions products, which include compostable products made from sugar cane fiber, corn and wheat straw.

Ghent noted that New York recently banned the use of EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam containers in food and beverage businesses. Often referred to by the registered trademark Styrofoam, EPS foam containers are cheap, lightweight and have some insulation value, but they are not recyclable and are made from petroleum. EPS is commonly used for disposable coffee cups and take-out containers.

“It’s probably a matter of time before (the ban on EPS) comes to the Midwest,” said Ghent.

Indeed, a ban on EPS is set to take effect in April in Portland, Maine. Other cities, including San Francisco and Seattle, also are cracking down on plastic and EPS products that are crowding landfills and often become a wind-blown eyesore on land and an environmental detriment in water.

Using renewable resources, products from World Centric are claimed by the California B Corporation to be environmentally sustainable and free of chemicals and metals. The products are said to compost in three to six months and are non-polluting, non-toxic and “environmentally responsible.” World Centric offers many products including deli containers, cold and hot cups, utensils, paper bowls and trash bags.

According to World Centric, when dumped in a commercial composting facility, its products break down and produce nutrient-rich soil within two to four months, depending on the material composition. Those products include plates, bowls and takeout containers made from leftover agricultural fiber; spoons, knives and forks from 70 percent non-GMO PLA and 30 percent talc. (PLA is polylactic acid or polylactide; it is a biodegradable thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources such as corn starch, according to Wikipedia.)

Other World Centric bar/restaurant products include napkins and paper towels made from post-consumer recycled paper, cold cups for water, juice, etc., made from NatureWorks Ingeo compostable plastics from corn grown in the USA; hot cups and hot cup sleeves for coffee, from Forest Stewardship Council paper; soup bowls from FSC paper; waste bags, trash liners and container lids from a mixture of synthetic and starch based plastics.

Ghent said BBC Distributing also will connect its customers with compost pickup companies, of which there are a number in Michigan. The company works mainly with New Soil in West Michigan, which hauls away organic waste from commercial businesses and deposits it at its composting facility in Zeeland. New Soil, based in Jenison, was previously Rosendall Disposal.

Photo by Michael Buck