After Rick Krikorian graduated high school in 1977, he went to college and obtained two degrees.

The Tulare Union graduate started working as a cost analyst for a large company in the Los Angeles area. But when there wasn’t enough satisfaction in his work, he moved back to the area and opened his own vending business.

“It wasn’t me,” Krikorian said about working in the corporate world. “So, I took my degrees and opened this. People thought I was crazy.”

Now, 25 years later, he’s operating a business that not only distributes product to vending machines across the Central Valley but he works with local schools, teachers and dozens of mom-and-pop shops offering up product for carnivals, parties, fundraisers and other local events.

Rick’s Vending and Distribution established its name in 1990. It started as a small Visalia vending company that quickly flourished into a wholesale store that he opened to the public.

“We built it up so that we don’t just do vending but we have people that come in and buy for their parties,” he said. “Anytime they want something fun and exciting they’ll come in.”

While his route drivers travel across the Central Valley filling vending machines with items such as candy and toys, Krikorian is in-house stocking items from sports gear, to toys, party pieces and piñatas.

Krikorian got his start by setting up a sports card machine in two Visalia stores—Roller Towne and Pizza Hut. It was during the late 1980’s when trading sports cards was popular, he said.

“I put them in those two spots and they did very, very well,” he said.

Today, Krikorian still has his first machine sitting in his warehouse, something he can look back on every now and then.

For his first few years operating, Krikorian worked out of his home. In 1993 he obtained warehouse space in Visalia, the same space he is in now, 9400 W. Placer Ave. It was through his mother’s suggestion that he go to the schools and offer his products to be used by teachers, for carnivals and other school activities. That suggestion worked, and today Krikorian is supplying about 90 percent of the school’s product used at such events, in Visalia and Tulare.

In 2002, Krikorian started carrying NFL gear that has since been a popular item, he said. The store carries items such as lanyards, outerwear, kitchen items, car decorations, flags and much more. The store also just received their NFL shipment for the 2015 season and has most teams available starting Thursday.

Rick’s Vending employs seven people. Currently, they are gearing up for the fall season, which is their busiest time of the year. Popular items sold in the fall include their entire glow in the dark and light-up sections. The popular children’s game —Kendama — which bears similarities to the classic cup-and-ball game, and the Selfie stick, are popular items heavily stocked at the store.

The business also consigns items at a discount to schools and organizations planning fundraisers. Krikorian said organizations get to keep what is made through sales, while the remaining items come back to the store.

“I want them to start new every year because there’s new toys out every year,” he said.

To keep up with what’s new and fun, Krikorian said he attends multiple sports, toy and candy shows every year.

Krikorian said the vending machine rental section of the store allows the public to borrow items for parties. These items include bubble machines, cotton candy machines, popcorn machines, and other machinery. The rental items range in price from $25-50.

Securing vending space in large companies can be hard, Krikorian said. For now, he’s happy about being the local guy offering a large selection of items for the public.

“I went the corporate route and I wasn’t a big fan,” he said. “I wanted to be my own boss and this was one of the ways I could do that.”


Article from the Visalia Times Delta.




 
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