For more than 20 years, John M. Ellsworth Enterprises (JME) of Milwaukee has been a full-service distributor for Tuthill Fort Wayne's Fill-Rite and Sotera products. They distribute fluid management products in the petroleum, chemical, agricultural, oil and gas, food and beverage, and fire industries.
"While Fill-Rite and JME have been growing together over the past few years, things jumped up in a big way in late 2016," JME Chief Operating Officer Phil Areddia said. "We both identified an opportunity to take our distribution model to the next level and we shared some marketing tactics and put together a growth plan.
Key players in the strategy were Tuthill's Mark Almeida, National Sales Manager, Angie Caris, Regional Account Manager, and James Scott, Regional Sales Manager for the area who had been deeply involved with the account for about a year. From JME, Marketing Director Rebecca Beach, Purchasing Director Russ Johnston and C.O.O. Phil Areddia were also instrumental in the strategy. James conducted product training for the new Fill-Rite nextec line to help JME sales articulate the value proposition and competitive differentiation. He also provided feedback regarding products JME could add to their portfolio from the Tuthill product lines, which could offer growth for the partnership.
Food Truck Origins
Back in Texas, the Mark Almeida and his wife’s family are Texas cattle ranchers, raising Wagyu. Recently, they came upon a new strategy to utilize the hamburger meat to drive a new business— a food truck.
Mark's daughter Christian Mattson always had dreams of owning her own business. She previously followed her mom's footsteps in real estate, starting in property management with plans to be a realtor working for her mom's brokerage. But opportunity would soon be knocking at her door as a dinner conversation led to the idea of a food truck business serving Austin's best burger. Christian took the idea and ran with it. She was ready to start her own adventure.
With guidance and support from her parents, they purchased a trailer, equipment, a license, and Mark aptly named the new business Wagyu on Wheels. It is primarily based in Austin, Texas. Mark’s wife Allyson even added a marketing touch with the slogan, “Burgers Like No Udder.” In January of 2017, Christian officially took the reigns of the business, traveling within Central Texas to serve her specialty burgers.
"She has always had an entrepreneurial spirit," Mark said of his daughter. "She had taken something that was a concept and turned it into a viable business through her tireless dedication."
Wagyu Comes to JME
In October 2017, the JME team achieved a groundbreaking sales goal. As a reward, Mark offered to fly his wife and daughter to JME to do a private catering of their Wagyu beef.
JME gladly accepted the offer. Now, the challenge was for Christian to bring her food truck experience to Milwaukee. She and her mother Allyson, who had a broken foot and was in a cast, packed up coolers of Wagyu beef and her specialty buns, and boarded an airplane to Wisconsin. Christian and her mother arrived and immediately started prepping for the following day's event. They stayed up until 2:00 a.m. chopping tomatoes and onions for the 100 orders she was preparing for.
"It was awesome, but a little stressful because it wasn't my normal routine," Christian said. "A lot of logistics were involved, and it was pretty crazy to get it all come together."
Meanwhile, Tuthill’s James Scott was securing an outdoor kitchen for JME’s lunch event, including a flat top grill, fryer and griddle, which was Tuthill’s only expense.
Above: Christian Mattson prepares for the mealAbove: Christian Mattson and Tuthill's James Scott prepare food
That morning the team arrived at JME's parking lot and started cooking. Christian and her mother prepared the burgers while James manned the fryer making French fries.
They brought the burgers indoors where around 100 JME employees had lunch. "That's the best hamburger I've ever had in my life!" Mark recalled one person say.
"Every single employee raved about the food to the point that any leftovers were quickly claimed," Phil, JME C.O.O. said. "For a gourmet burger, Wagyu on Wheels is top notch!"
Above: JME employees grab a Wagyu on Wheels burgerAbove: Christian and Tuthill's James Scott
The event held great meaning and connection for JME and Tuthill.
"Sharing a meal with people is a great way to relax and share experiences, and to do that with a partner like Fill-Rite is a great experience," Phil said. "Mark's generosity of bringing his wife and daughter from Texas along with James Scott, just to serve the JME team enhanced the entire experience."
For Mark, this extravagant meal was a well-earned reward. "[JME] had been such great supporters of Fill-Rite. They are wholesome good friends and partners. It was fun for me to do this, and frankly they deserved it," Mark said.
Above: JME's Marketing Director Rebecca Beach and Christian
The future of JME and Tuthill Fort Wayne's partnership is bright. "Each team got to know each other so much better, which always paves the way to a stronger future," Phil said.
For Christian, this was an event she will not soon forget. "It was really unique. It was a lifelong impact on everybody," Christian said.
What Goes Around
Above: Louise and Phil Areddia with Christian when they visited her truck in TexasAbove: Mark Almeida, Phil and Louise Areddia in Texas
In October 207, at Petroleum Equipment Institutes annual convention in Chicago, Tuthill received a plaque for JME’s Vendor of the Year Award. “We received 48 out of 50 votes,” Mark praised.
In April of 2018, JME's Phil Areddia and his wife Louise were visiting family in Texas. Before they left, they decided they needed to make a special stop to visit Christian's food truck in action. They looked up her schedule and saw that she would be at a festival serving food.
They went up to the food truck to order a meal and surprised Christian. They presented her with a Wagyu on Wheels menu all the employees had signed as a Thank You. It brought Christian to tears.
Mark said this genuine effort by the Areddia's goes to shows that when you demonstrate kindness to others, it is returned to you. This special lunch was more than just buying a customer dinner, he said. "This was more personal. I introduced them to the closest inner circle I have, my wife and kids. They reciprocated, took time out of their vacation to visit my daughter."
Lessons SharedAbove: Mark and his daughter Christian, who is holding up their W.O.W. symbol for Wagyu On Wheels
Mark said he’s very appreciative for Tuthill because if it weren’t for the company’s culture he wouldn’t have felt as comfortable mixing business with family.
He said that Tuthill “makes you feel more comfortable to connect with others” on a personal level.
Also, Mark is grateful for the business lessons he's acquired while working for Tuthill for 11 years. It helped him and his family craft a now thriving food truck business.
“It’s fun to watch your kids flourish, and lots of it is possible because of the things I’ve learned at Tuthill,” Mark said, the pride exuding in his voice.
Christian sent her love to her father and mother. "I seriously am so appreciative of my parents' help and guidance. My dad's got a very demanding job, and he's very busy, but he takes the time to help and see me succeed. None of this could happen without them. They are my biggest cheerleaders."