A.D. Bos Vending Services: Proud of the past, progressing toward the future

It’s been 74 years since Alvin D. Bos first opened up shop in Holland, and a lot has changed in that time. What hasn’t changed is the Bos family’s positive presence in the West Michigan community.

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Originally a wholesale goods company, Bos ventured into the vending market in 1955. At the time, he was taking a risk by entering a new industry, but that decision paved the way for what we know today as A.D. Bos Vending Services. Since that time, the company has continued to adapt and move forward, taking steps to address the changing vending needs of the community.

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Now in its third generation of family ownership, A.D. Bos Vending is West Michigan’s leader in vending, coffee, and catering. . In recent years, they have worked very hard to stay current with technology, both in their website and social media presence as well as with their response system for customers. The company has grown over time, but their commitment to providing high quality customer service has continued to be the cornerstone of their operation.

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“We listen to our customers, and they value the services we’re able to provide for them,” said Tom Bos, grandson of Alvin Bos and current president of the company.

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At A.D. Bos, it is truly a family affair. Tom took over for his dad, Thomas G. Bos, in 1997. He had been running things since Alvin D. Bos retired in 1972.

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“It is a privilege and an honor to run the business that my grandfather started,” said Tom.

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Other members of the Bos family are also involved in the business—they have a family board that meets once a year to discuss what is new and stay up-to-date with the company, and all the Bos children have worked there, carrying on the family tradition.

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The Bos family also strives to create a family-like atmosphere among their employees, who are integral to their operation.

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“Many have helped us build the company over the past 15, 20, or even 25 years, with incredible dedication and loyalty,” said Tom.

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At A.D. Bos, in addition to technological advances, one of the greatest drivers of change has been environmental concerns. Recognizing the typical issues in going green, A.D. Bos strives to have simple and environmentally friendly solutions for their business clients. To make sustainable goals a reality, they partner with environmentally responsible suppliers and source as many local and organic products as they can. They have also started investing in fuel efficient vehicles and Energy Star equipment.

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“We want to be good stewards of our resources,” said Tom. “We think it’s important to look at the long-term, and to bring that kind of perspective to the table.”

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A.D. Bos has green solutions in place to transform breakroom vending and coffee practices. They offer a Green Breakroom Program as well as a Sustainable Coffee Program, both of which focus on recycling, energy efficiency, and fair-trade products. Their programs also have an educational component, teaching employees about the importance of sustainable practices at work.

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A.D. Bos’ commitment to going green is one of many ways that they support the community where they live. In addition to being environmentally conscious, the company is active in giving back to Holland and West Michigan as a whole.

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“We care about what happens here and are willing to invest our time, money, and passion to make this area better for all,” Tom said.

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This dedication manifests itself in volunteering and engaging with organizations such as United Way and the Michigan Small Business Association. Through these partnerships, A.D. Bos keeps in touch with and contributes positively to the community that they have been a part of for the past 74 years.

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“Reinvesting in the community helps us and our employees,” said Tom. “We recognize that West Michigan is a vibrant place to live, and we want to support that.”

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The leaders at A.D. Bos also work to support the community through their purchasing power.

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“We buy products made in Michigan whenever possible,” said Tom. “We want to stock our machines with healthy, local products.”

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For the Bos family, being a local business and supporting local businesses go hand in hand.

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“This is where we call home,” said Tom. “We have a sense of place here. The combination of strong business partnerships, customers who value our services, and high caliber employees that share our values make this the ideal community for us to continue to build our family business.”

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To find out more about A.D. Bos Vending Services, please visit their website here.

Michigan Pantry: A New Legacy

For 24 years, Shaker Messenger was a staple in the Holland community. Its owner, Diana Van Kolken, was one of the first people in the area to make a conscious effort to support local businesses in Holland. Her enthusiasm for the community was contagious, and though she passed away in October, her ideas about supporting local producers have caught on. A large part of her mission remains intact thanks to Robin Nash, owner of the new Michigan Pantry.

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Michigan Pantry, which replaced Shaker Messenger in November, specializes in Michigan made food and gifts.

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Diana and Robin first met as neighboring business owners in downtown Holland. When Robin decided to close her scrapbooking store, Diana invited her to join the Shaker Messenger team.

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“She just said ‘Come on over,’” said Robin.

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For eight years, Robin worked for Diana. At first, she helped out with payroll and bookkeeping, but her responsibilities increased as the years went on and Diana’s health issues progressed.

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“Little by little, I started doing more and more,” said Robin. “I got a good understanding of how she ran the business.”

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As a result of their time together, Michigan Pantry resembles Shaker Messenger in some ways. But it was important to both Diana and Robin that the new store be just that: new.

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“The store was her identity, her whole life. There couldn’t be another Shaker Messenger,” Robin said.

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They talked about the changes to be made once Robin took over. The important things included focusing more on food and incorporating “Michigan” into the name, as supporting local food producers and artists is an important part of Diana’s legacy.

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“We talked about what she wished for the store going forward. Expanding on the food section seemed like the most natural direction. More than anything, she was excited for the changes.”

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THE HOLLAND COMMUNITY

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Despite having only been open a few months, Michigan Pantry can already feel the support of the West Michigan community.

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“The people we meet are incredible. Our customers want to support local businesses. We feel a strong sense of loyalty from them,” said Robin.

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People feel good shopping at Michigan Pantry because they know that all of the food and gifts were made right here in Michigan.

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Robin shared the reasons why she personally likes to shop at local businesses. “The people who own businesses here are just like me—they have a family and kids. I know that by shopping there I am helping them make their living.”

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By supporting those who own small businesses in the community, people get the opportunity to make an impact on the local economy and, in turn, they get to have stores like Michigan Pantry that care about the community. Not only is Michigan Pantry dedicated to the promotion of Michigan made products, it is also concerned with the good of those right on the Lakeshore. For the local business owners here, it is easy to see why working together is one of the best perks of the job.

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“It’s all about building relationships,” said Robin. “We are a community, all trying to help in our own little ways.”

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Robin especially enjoys being among local business owners in downtown Holland.

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“We love to promote each other downtown. I know the people, and that makes a big difference,” she said.

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MOVING FORWARD

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As Michigan Pantry continues to grow its own roots in the Holland community, plans to expand their offerings are already in motion. Looking around the Michigan Pantry store on South River Avenue in Holland, the space is full of jams, candies, coffee, bread, tea, and more. But Robin hopes to add even more food to her shelves and get more local artists involved in the store.

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“We have plans to expand the food lines. We also want to bring in more local artists—that’s our goal right now. We know there are people out there we just need to find them,” she said.

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Spring is always an exciting time in Holland, with important events like Tulip Time bringing lots of people to the city. Robin hopes that the new season will introduce her new business to people all around the West Michigan community.

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“We’re proud to show off all the cool things Michigan has to offer,” she said. “We want to spread that love to others.”

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This story was originally published in the Spring issue of Urban St. ShoreWest.

Once Upon a Time in a Bookstore

Once upon a time, I was the owner of an independent bookstore. It had been a life-long dream and though I had three boys that were still very young, the opportunity arose and well…you know what they say. It turned out to be one of the best times of my life, eight years of living and breathing books. As someone who grew up immersing her face in the bindings of old books and breathing deeply, owning a bookstore was its own special nirvana.  Placing a key in the door at Tree House Books every morning, inhaling that particular scent of pulp, walking through the quiet store, turning on lights, scanning the landscape of shelves upon shelves stuffed with words; it never got old. I can still get pretty nostalgic about the whole thing.

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I received many gifts while operating the bookstore. Getting to know the people who lived in my community by name, knowing what their favorite books were, getting to know their kids and grandkids. Sharing stories about marriages, travels, successes, illnesses, death. The bookstore was a connector, a place where boundaries receded and stories were told, laughter abounded, tears shed. Kids ran wild, poets spoke, authors resonated. We laughed at Chet the chinchilla’s weekly escape, Icarus the lovebird’s constant demand for attention, and our bunnies’ prodigious mess.  We bemoaned the salt water fish tank that cost an arm & a leg to keep running but watching kids press their nose against the glass yelling, “Nemo! Mommy, it’s Nemo” kept me paying that bill.

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I also got to know my fellow business owners well. I saw passion and dedication in each of their stories. Showing up to open their store in the dead of winter, getting through the tough months, celebrating the busy times and complaining about the bad ones.

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In 2006, a group of those business owners and myself started the Lakeshore Independent Business Alliance (LIBA). It was tough economic times and there was a national movement afoot. Buy Local campaigns were sprouting up around the country and a few of us thought the Holland area was ripe for the message. We believed in the specialness of our community and knew that we needed to keep these moms & pops, these small local businesses, open during this downturn. We wanted to spread the word that shopping local kept money in the community and kept your neighbors in business. It was a message about community and supporting the hard working people who live next door to you, who chose to follow dreams and do the hard work of being an independent business owner. No access to corporate funds for marketing. No national purse strings. These people go to church here, shop here, eat here. They donate dollars and merchandise to countless fundraisers. In essence they were the lifeblood, the beating heart. I knew this because I worked among them and saw their dedication firsthand.

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Lakeshore Independent Business Alliance (LIBA) grew over the years to 120 businesses along the lakeshore and the message took root. I have now transitioned from owning a bookstore to supporting and advocating for those business owners whom I admire and respect. When LIBA merged with Local First last year, I became the Lakeshore Membership Coordinator. Working for Local First allows me to continue to work in my community and build relationships with the passionate people who bring color and variety to our world.  In a sense, I am still back in that bookstore, talking to people about their dreams and sharing in their excitement. For me, there is no better job.