You're going to like this story. It's about true grit and pluck and lifting oneself up by one's bootstraps and entrepreneurial spirit and the little guy taking on the big guys and winning - or, at least, not losing. It's sort of a Horatio-Alger-meets-the-Karate-Kid kind of story.
Our hero is James Rueck-ert, owner of R & D Distributing, a Salt Lake company that Rueckert launched six years ago when he saw a narrow little niche in the distribution business just waiting for someone to fill. Rueckert decided he was that someone.The niche he saw was the need that those ubiquitous gas station/convenience stores have for a distribution company willing to sell and deliver precisely what they need given their limited shelf space. Not a case of chicken soup, but a can of chicken soup. Not a gross of "D" batteries, but a pair. Not 12 dozen microwave burritos, but a half-dozen.
Under Rueckert's plan there would be no surcharge for breaking up a case - something he says was unheard of at the time. In fact, any merchandise that didn't sell in the store would be taken back for full credit, no questions asked.
Sound simple? Sure, the good ideas usually are, but back in 1983, says Rueckert, no one was doing it. And despite the fact that there now seems to be a gas station/convenience store on every corner of every intersection, such was not the case six years ago when he got his brilliant idea.
The granddaddy of the convenience stores, 7-Eleven, already had distribution contracts as did Circle K, so that left a handful of smaller chains - Rainbo, Holiday Oil, Top Stop, Metro Oil, Hart Oil and Country Cousins - as potential customers.
Having recently operated a convenience store himself, Rueckert knew they needed him and his ideas. The fact that he could launch his brand new business with a $25 business license and operate out of the back of a Nissan Sentra with his bedroom for company headquarters, hey, no problem.
Actually, there were a lot of problems, but Rueckert concedes he was too eager - and naive - to worry about them.
For example, he didn't know that the large and well-entrenched national distribution firm McLane Western Inc., based in Denver, would not take kindly to a local upstart muscling in on its action. Nor did he have a glimmering of what it would be like for a tiny distribution company to try and buy products from such giants as Procter & Gamble and General Foods.
Such companies, the only source of many name-brand products, sell by the rail-car, not the Nis-san-trunkful.
But you knew from the way this story began that it has a happy ending, didn't you?
Well, you're right. Six years later, the Nissan is history, as are the 13,000-square-foot quarters that replaced it. Last month, R & D Distributing bought and moved into the former McKesson Drug Co. facility, a 56,000-square-foot building at 160 W. 21st South that is already bulging with R & D merchandise.
Michael B. Falk and James Sheldon, Coldwell Banker Industrial Properties specialists handled the sale which reportedly came in at just under $1 million for the four-acre property, built in the late 1940s to serve as the Royal Crown Bottling Co. plant.
McKesson has moved into larger quarters on eight acres at Centennial Park where the company consolidated several operations formerly scattered around the city.
Today, R & D Distributing employs 32 and operates a dozen trucks throughout Utah and parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada, promising all of its 230 convenience store customers next-day delivery on orders.
Not surprisingly, Rueckert does not plan to do much laurels-resting. Instead, he has expansion on his mind, particularly in Provo, Ogden and Richfield as well as Salt Lake.
If you think there isn't a corner left that hasn't a convenience store already, think again, says Rueckert. This is an industry on a roll, he says, and given the fact that families continue to demonstrate that saving time is among their top priorities, they should just keep rolling.
And for R & D Distributing, that's good.