Team Modern Distributors Inc.

Math, marketing and food transforms 50-year-old family company
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
Victor Martins

Located in Somerset, Kentucky, Team Modern Distributors Inc. is the largest privately held wholesale distribution company in the state. Specializing in the convenience “c-store” market, Team Modern currently works with some 675 stores across five states, helping each operation develop and implement product strategy and become more profitable.

The company started small 50 years ago with founder William “Bill” G. Ray. Bill established Modern Distributors in 1965 as a small operator of vending machines, pinball machines and jukeboxes in the central Kentucky area. Over the course of the last 50 years, Team Modern has expanded as one of the largest family-owned and -operated wholesale distributors, serving independently and chain-owned c-stores and tobacco shops in Kentucky, Tennessee, western Virginia, southern Indiana and northern Georgia.

Family first

With generations of family ownership, Team Modern makes a point to make every customer feel like family through service, financial analysis, marketing support, food service, comprehensive consulting services and a wide-ranging product selection. Today, Jerry Ray, president and owner, Mickey Ray, treasurer and owner, and Michael Ray, chief financial officer, represent the second and third generations of family leadership at Team Modern.

“We’re people-people,” asserts Jerry. For more than 30 years, Jerry and Mickey have leveraged their experience to transform Team Modern from a cigarette and candy company to a full-service c-store provider.

As the third generation, Michael grew up around the warehousing business. He has now been with Team Modern for close to a decade and as a CPA, he works to ensure the company’s financial goals are attained while also helping define and achieve financial profit-growth goals for their customers as well.

“The numbers always tell the story of where there are opportunities to grow within a company and also helps us to evaluate our impact on the success of our customers,” says Michael. “When we define goals together with our customers it gives us both numbers to shoot for in achieving our goals and strengthening our partnership.”

Customers that have partnered with Team Modern in recent years agree: “We made the switch to Team Modern as our wholesale distributor in 2013,” says Seth Blanks of Blanks Fast Stop Markets. “Their remarkable level of support and marketing has had a tremendous influence on our bottom line. We couldn’t be happier with our decision.”

Together, Jerry, Mickey and Michael manage the daily operations of Team Modern and assure the company meets the diverse needs of its customers. Everything that is needed within the convenience store channel is available from Team Modern with more than 6,000 SKUs representing all product categories that can be purchased in a convenience store.

Fast casual food in c-stores

Team Modern is also making sure their company reflects strong trends in the leading convenience channel stores that include providing fast casual, high-quality food for consumers. “Demographics and taste of consumers are changing in the convenience store channel and we are transforming our company to reflect that change in food service,” explains Barrett Harris, food service director at Team Modern. “Over the last four years we have begun to develop, brand and trademark private label food and beverage programs. We make these programs exclusively available to our customers and it gives us a unique competitive edge against other competitors in the distribution industry.”

In order to build the food service programs, exceed the expectations of customers and consumers in the c-store channel, Team Modern hired a professional chef to help formulate these food service programs. Chef Jared Richardson is a Culinary Institute of America -Hide Park graduate and has years of experience in the restaurant industry which he brings to the company.

Chef Jared, along with the food service and marketing team, work closely together to design, build and execute the launch of these food service programs. These new programs are also designed to compliment the relationship Team Modern has with Pro Food Systems Brands, which offers Champs and Cooper’s Express Chicken Programs to Team Modern customers. Champs Chicken and Cooper’s Express provide two different proven program models, each designed to provide high-quality products for consumers and meet varying convenience store retailer needs. “Today if convenience stores are not serving quality food in their store, their margin of profit and ability to grow is greatly compromised,” says Barrett.

Coffee also continuously draws customers to convenience stores and Team Modern operates a beverage division representing a range of coffees, teas and flavored-slush drinks. The company partners with S&D Coffee, one of the nation’s largest coffee and tea providers to offer the finest coffee products currently used by the largest restaurants in the industry today. Assisting customers with product selection, equipment, marketing services and consulting, Team Modern ensures c-stores can create a destination within their stores that will increase profits and create a true draw for other inside product sales. 

This diverse product offering allows Team Modern to consolidate and ship almost any product a retailer needs – delivered from one truck – which saves customers both time and money. Team Modern meets the demand for swift service by guaranteeing next-day delivery, biweekly sales calls and experienced personnel to carry out all parts of the transaction, from invoicing to deliveries.

Digital and print marketing drives sales

Four years ago Team Modern began providing in-house marketing services for both customers and the vendor community. The company used the expertise of its in-house marketing team to develop point-of-sale print promotional programs as well as the development of an Internet-based closed circuit video feed called Grab N Go TV.

“It is a fact that promotion helps sell more goods and our goal is always to help customers sell more products and generate more profits,” explains Jim Holton, creative and key accounts director at Team Modern. “Fusing video that consumers are exposed to in their everyday lives along with print product promotion at the point of sale has helped our customers and vendors sell more products so everyone wins.”

Team Modern’s marketing department provides comprehensive design, print and installation services of everything it creates for customers as well. “We believe our business model is unlike any of our competitors in the industry today,” says Mickey. “We are committed to grow our business and the profits of our customers too.”     

The Ray family all agrees – ultimately, analyzing the numbers, strong in-house food service programs and marketing services have helped transform the company and the direction of Team Modern for many years to come. 

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Champs Chicken
Joshen Paper Company