Branching Out Part 1: Oahu - Kevin Wilkinson on Living the Aloha Spirit

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On Wednesday, October 12th and Thursday, October 13th, Bargreen Ellingson will be hosting the Hawaii Foodservice Show - the company's largest event of the year on Oahu. Helping lead the charge is General Manager, Kevin Wilkinson. Wilkinson manages over 50 employees and four of the major islands - Maui, Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island. With over 6000 foodservice licenses on Oahu, over a million full-time residents, and 3 million people on the island at any given time, Wilkinson is a busy man. Despite a full schedule, however, Wilkinson still finds a way to stay committed to his team, his family and living the Aloha Spirit.

In this special four-part Branching Out blog series, we will be island-hopping to each of our branch locations to share with you why you should know our Hawaii ohana. Keep a look out for interviews, recipes and more through the month of September! Continue reading Wilkinson's interview below.

Mahalo, Kevin.

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What interested you in going to work for Bargreen Ellingson? 

What interested me was the appeal of working for a growing family-owned company. I started my career at Bargreen Ellingson on August 12th, 1992 in our Yakima, WA branch. At this stage of my career, we only had 4 branches total; Tacoma, Seattle, Spokane and Yakima.

What has your journey been like up to this point?

In 1996, I was given the opportunity to move to our newest branch in Boise, ID to help with operations. Eleven months later, I was moved to our Spokane branch to take over as the store manager. After a few years, I started to get the itch to go into territory sales. I was lucky enough to head up sales in Coeur d’Alene, ID where I was very successful for eight years.

In 2006, I was offered the position of territory sales in our then newest branch in Bend, OR where I developed territories we had been trying to get into for some time. Three and a half years later, I received a call from David Ellingson asking me if I would like to head up our Pasco, WA branch as the general manager. This was a new and exciting adventure so I accepted and moved my family once again back to Washington state.

Four years later an even bigger call came from David asking me if I would be interested in moving to Hawaii to take over as General Manager for the Hawaiian Islands. My wife is from California and said, “Finally, I get to live someplace warm!” So, for me, it was a no-brainer. We made the move to where I am today, and two years and two months I have been in Hawaii and what a great team we have. 

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Kevin Wilkinson

What are some of the challenges and rewards that come with managing all of our Hawaii branches?

I would say my biggest challenge is dealing with freight issues - whether it's lead times, damage or just how in the heck do we get that monster of a piece of equipment 5000 miles away to Hawaii and in one piece? In work and life, there are many challenges that we face every day but everyday I take those challenges with my head held high and the Aloha spirit in my heart.  

As for rewards, there are many. For one, we live in Hawaii, and who wouldn't want to live here? It's 85 degrees every day, the ocean in crystal clear and 82 degrees. I think the biggest reward for me, personally, is how well we all work as a team. With over 50 employees, we all work well together, and if there is ever a problem we work it out and move on. This Hawaii division is a great place to manage, and it has been a blast so far seeing staff grow, learn, motivate, and mentor others. We are the largest foodservice equipment, supply and design leader in Hawaii, and have a great team of individuals that take pride and ownership in their jobs. That makes it pretty easy for me to lead this great group of employees.

In October, you will be hosting the Hawaii Foodservice Show on Oahu - Bargreen Ellingson’s largest event of the year. What should customers look forward to?

In February of 2017, the NAFEM show in Florida (North American Association of Food Equipment Manufactures) will take place - one of the largest foodservice shows of its kind in the world. This is the stage where factories debut new and exciting equipment and tabletop wares. During our show in October, we will have sneak peeks at some of those new items coming out in 2017, as well as factory reps and owners from over 100 factories on hand to answer questions. We will also have a full staff of Bargreen Ellingson employees ranging from customer service, territory sales, contract sales, ownership and designers to help with questions. Special "show sale" prices will be available on all items in booths, and people will be on hand to make sure purchases are confirmed and delivered. Look for live demos and lots and lots of new ideas!


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Oahu team left to right: Anthony, Emil, Dawna, Derrik, Sam, Chris, Dana, Bianca, Kurt, Charlene, Gloria, Dolores, Shari, Reina, Peggy, Debbie, Christian, Niki, Penny, Ellisa, Jocelyn, Tom, Williamette, Duane, Jovi, Chris, Keone, Lamont, Mark and Bear

How will the show benefit customers who are starting a new business?

Our on-island design manager, and a team of contact salespeople and contract support will be available to help guide anyone looking to start from the ground up, remodel or provide ideas on how to make their current space more functional. We will also have on site financial members to help make your dreams come true.

What is the best advice you have ever received throughout your career and how do you apply this advice to your job every day? 

Just show up. This was a saying from a territory sales person who unfortunately doesn't work for us anymore but is now a factory representative who I still get to see on occasion. He said the reason for his success was to "just show up". As a salesperson, I always wanted to be in front of my customers and work face-to-face with them, not via cell phone, email or text. I believe this is a great way to add value and create long-lasting relationships with customers or as I always say “my friends”.

What are you most looking forward to in the near future?

I look forward to building the Hawaii division as the largest division in the company. We have all the pieces now, we just need to put them together. I love seeing what each new day will bring to the relationships that I have with customers, employees and especially my family. That's why I love my job so much; this industry is ever-changing and I am just along for the ride.

Aloha. Click here to register for the  Hawaii Foodservice Show 


Find our Hawaii locations here:

Chloe is the Social Media and Marketing Coordinator for Bargreen Ellingson. She is an avid reader, loves London Fog lattes and her budgie, Brodie.
Topics: Branching Out Interviews