UNCASVILLE, CT -- Nearly 100 industry members from throughout New England gathered here at the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino for their annual joint meeting, which organizers are hailing as one of the most successful, to date.
The six New England trade groups are the Connecticut Vending Association, Massachusetts Vending Association, New Hampshire Vending Association, Pine Tree Vending Association, Rhode Island Vending Association and Vermont Vending Association.
Each of the state council presidents also updated meeting-goers on the legislative challenges in their states over the past year and the efforts by their groups to protect the industry’s interests. National Automatic Merchandising Association senior vice-president of government affairs Eric Dell spoke about the latest happenings on Capitol Hill.
A wine-tasting excursion to the Maugle Sierra Vineyard and dinner, dancing and comedy show provided ample opportunity for networking and socializing.
A much-anticipated part of the festivities was the presentation of the New England associations’ Harry Wishart Award. The award is presented to a person who has demonstrated the ideals of the late Harry Wishart, working for the group as a whole towards building a better and stronger vending industry in New England.
This year's Wishart winner is Dennis Surprenant, the New England region sales representative for Gekay Sales and Service (Ludlow, MA). In keeping with tradition, last year’s winner, Steve Foley of Foley Coffee & Vending (Norwood, MA), selected this year's winner, with the concurrence of past recipients.
Surprenant began his coin-op career in 1975 with vending machine distributor Robert Jones International, which later became Bally Northeast Distributing, New England Coin-Op and, currently, Betson New England.
He worked his way up the ranks, from technician to sales representative and sales manager before joining the distributor’s branch management team.
Over the decades, Surprenant has taken an active role in supporting the industry in many capacities. He served as secretary of the Pine Tree Vending Association for nine years and secretary of the New Hampshire Vending Association for seven years. Since 1985, he has served on the board of directors of the Massachusetts Vending Association six times.
In presenting the award, Foley, past president of the Massachusetts Vending Association and the New England Office Coffee Association, extended his personal gratitude to Surprenant for his help rewriting portions of MVA’s bylaws, lending a hand with scholarship golf outings and walking the halls of the statehouse in Boston to advocate for the industry.
Todd Hedrich, Hedrich Vending (Presque Isle, ME), conceived the Harry Wishart award to honor the late vending pioneer from Maine who is widely regarded as one of the first independent product brokers. He is credited with being the driving force that brought the New England associations together.
Past recipients are: Rob Tappen (2000); Mike Campbell (2001); Ed Jones (2002); Ed Dooley (2003); Todd Hedrich (2004); Allan Gilbert (2005); Larry Cohen (2006); Howard Michaels (2007); Lloyd "Bud" Willey Jr. (2008); in the memory of Loren Athearn (2009); Eric Mueller (2010); Melissa Johnson (2011) and Steve Foley (2012).