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EG Forrest Company: The Preferred Foodservice Distributor
Eddy and Kevin Forrest are fourth-generation owners of EG Forrest Company (EG Forrest), the business their great grandfather, Ernest Graham Forrest Sr., founded in 1920.
“He and his brother had a little corner store,” says Eddy, vice president of sales and marketing at EG Forrest. “It was a meat market, produce stand kind of thing in Wake County, N.C.” The business was small and eventually the brothers discovered that it could not support both families.
“They flipped a coin to see who would keep the store, and my great grandfather lost,” continues Eddy. “So he moved the family to Winston-Salem to start EG Forrest, which was more focused on distribution.” EG Forrest’s early inventory included produce and knick-knacks for convenience stores.
Ever since, the company has passed hands in a linear progression. Eddy and Kevin’s father, Louis Forrest, took over the business in 1974 at the age of 28. Over the next few years EG Forrest tripled in size. When Eddy and Kevin were young, the brothers worked summers for the family business. “We were in the warehouse or sweeping floors or working on the receiving dock or in the freezers,” says Eddy. “The job descriptions changed with our sports schedules.”
Growing with the Business
After high school, both of the brothers went off to college. “We each worked various jobs,” says Eddy. “I worked in restaurants, so I have some food industry experience; I worked for my university’s athletic club and had a few sales and marketing internships.”
Eddy officially rejoined EG Forrest in May 2005, and Kevin had previously returned in January 2002. The brothers would like to keep the business in the family, but Eddy says it’s a little soon to tell who might be taking over. “The fifth generation is still fairly young,” he explains. At two-and-a-half, 18 months and six months, the youngest Forrests have some time to work out where they fit into the family business.
Growing up around the business, Eddy and Kevin have learned a lot about running a business. The brothers have also gotten to know all of EG Forrest’s long-term employees. “We know everybody here,” explains Eddy. “The warehouse workers, the truck drivers. We’re a family business. Maybe it sounds cheesy, but we like to treat everyone we work with like they’re a part of our family.”
Employee safety and general well-being are high priorities for the Forrest brothers. “A family business has an unusual dynamic,” explains Eddy. “Our experience growing up in it has really shaped our management style.” The brothers extend the same level of care and concern to clients and suppliers, focusing on building relationships for the long-term.
Only the Best
Accessibility is the biggest difference between EG Forrest and larger corporate distributors. “From a customer perspective, big or small, if they want to talk to me or my brother or my dad, all they have to do is pick up the phone and call us,” explains Eddy. “You can’t do that with our larger competitors.”
The wholesale and brokerage branches of the industry have undergone many changes over the last half-decade. “Over the last four to five years, the economy has been so bad that many people have seen flat years, or had to shrink to stay in business,” says Eddy. “There are lots of mergers and acquisitions going on.”
The lines have been changing and there are fewer companies involved in the market than there were a few years ago. “It’s the same thing with distribution,” continues Eddy. “There aren’t very many family-owned companies anymore, especially with the longevity we have. I think that says a lot about our company and our family. The foundation of our business is integrity and we hold the same values today that we did when we started.”
Eddy, Kevin and the rest of the EG Forrest team remains focused on targeted growth. “We’re very aware of where we need to be in sales and marketing today,” says Eddy. The brothers are taking advantage of technology to improve functionality of the family business as well as the marketing aspect.
“We can’t control what the economy does, but we can control our own focused growth,” explains Eddy. “Kevin and I are the younger generation at 30 and 33. We’re tech-savvy. We like what’s cutting edge and new and there’s not a whole lot of that in our sector. We’re doing everything we can to be more efficient.”
The Forrest brothers are making big steps to keep the business ahead of the curve in technology and service. “We have no plans of merging,” explains Eddy. “Outside of our families, this business is what we eat, sleep and breathe.”
EG Forrest is the brothers’ shared passion. “The company’s future success is important to our future success,” says Eddy proudly. With all of its support, EG Forrest Company is sure to prosper for generations to come.