Friday, September 21, 2007

The Snack Shack

Once upon a time my friend Marcie and I worked in the inner circle of hell, otherwise known as the local newspaper. I was the editor of the Good Living section; she was a graphic designer and worked on the real estate ads. The people we worked with were great; it was the big-wig management that sucked. Apparently they thought we worked there for the love of it and paid us menial wages while we had to use equipment that was barely newer than an Underwood typewriter and cut-and-paste design.

Although we worked in a fairly dense suburban area, our office wasn't really near too many stores of interest. Couple that with the fact that we were on the second floor and seemed to always be on deadline, and we didn't get the chance to get out much. You had to bring your lunch and snacks or basically you'd be screwed. One day, while enjoying our usual Lean Cuisine lunches, we came up with a brilliant idea: what if we started a snack stand in the office? We could go to B.J.'s and load up on candy and chips and sell it out of my office. Brilliant! We could provide tasty treats for our colleagues while at the same time supplementing our meager incomes. And thus, the Snack Shack was born.

I had a window in my office that looked out on the newsroom, so we set up shop there: a big box filled with Reese's, Snickers, Milky Ways, chocolate chip cookies, potato chips and other goodies. We charged a flat rate: 50 cents for any item. Some items (such as the cookies) offered a bigger profit margin, but we figured it would all work out in the end.

The Snack Shack was a huge success. We could count on the editor to buy a bag of chips for his lunch every day. The sports editor saw what a great value we offered and bought in quantity to take home treats to his kids. We even had frequent buyer cards. It was fantastic.

Oh, it wasn't without its problems. One day I caught Marcie's arch enemy, a saleswoman named Gail, snaking her manicured talons around the window to steal a bag of peanut M&Ms. The next day we put up signs saying the Snack Shack was being monitored by close-circuit cameras and that violators would be prosecuted. Another time, the General Manager was jonesing for a snack after hours and went into my desk to look for the Snack Shack key. And then there were always the dregs that nobody wanted: some random tortilla chips, plain Hershey bars and the like. These were sold in the occasional buy-one-get-one-free sale.

But overall, it was a huge success and we spent our occasional earnings on vodka tonics and nachos. Several months later, when I'd finally had it with the cheap-ass antics of the company, I got motivated enough to look for another job. It broke my heart to tell Marcie I'd be leaving the Shack. She decided that she didn't want to continue it alone, so we sold the business the sports editor. I visited the office a year later and the Shack was still going strong. In fact, he had expanded his offerings to include soda. Above the Snack Shack box o' goodies there was a picture of his twin daughters and a word balloon that said, "Please donate to our college fund."

Those were some good times. I hadn't thought about the Shack in a long, long time until I got an e-mail the other day from a guy named Logan. He runs a vending machine company that's been in business for 20 years. I asked him what the most popular candies are and he said definitely traditional faves like Reese's and Butterfingers, but the new hot items are energy balls. I've never even heard of these, so be on the lookout for a future entry about these. But it got me to thinking about owning a vending machine business. How cool would that be? That's up there with having an ice cream truck in the summer. Check out his website:

I'll have to give Marcie a call to reminisce about the Snack Shack. And maybe I can persuade her to start up her own vending machine business.

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