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Toby Kiser, owner and president of Phil Erb Concessions Co. Inc., is leading the longtime refrigeration company into concessions, such as cotton candy and inflatables. He opened Air Time Equipment this month.
Toby Kiser, owner and president of Phil Erb Concessions Co. Inc., is leading the longtime refrigeration company into concessions, such as cotton candy and inflatables. He opened Air Time Equipment this month.

Business Spotlight: From Fridges to Funnel Cakes

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At least two major points of change have shaped Phil Erb Concessions Co. Inc., says owner and President Toby Kiser.

One defines what the company sells and the other deals with its methodology, Kiser says.
Starting as a refrigeration and concession supply company at 1344 E. Sunshine St. in 1948, the company gradually shifted its emphasis to concessions.

As the shift took place, the need for a Web site allowing customers to place and track orders without relying on sales staff became apparent.
Kiser developed www.philerbinc.com in-house about five years ago, shortly after he bought the company in 2006.

Those changes have allowed the company’s concessions footprint to expand – the company has concessions contracts with many of Branson’s music theaters and is one of the five oldest distributors of Gold Medal Products Co., a 75-year-old Cincinnati-based concession equipment manufacturer and supplier, Kiser says.

He has moved Phil Erb Concessions to 2025 E. Chestnut Expressway, Ste. A, signing a 10-year lease on a building with AGB LLC, a property management company owned by Aaron Buerge.

Expanded Web marketing
With a staff of only six, Phil Erb Concessions relies heavily on its Web site for sales and maintaining its concessions information presence, Kiser says.  

“We’re trying to compete with people who have access to goods nationwide,” he says. “You either adapt or you lose business.”

Phil Erb sells concession equipment in all 50 states and worldwide, including a $20,000 sale last year to a company in Ireland.

Phil Erb Concessions is a full-line distributor of Gold Medal Products and all of its 1,270 products.

“Phil Erb has been with Gold Medal for many, many years, and they do a very good job for us,” says Chris Petroff, national sales manager for Gold Medal, which does not release order volumes for its 500 domestic and 150 international distributors.

About 40 percent of Phil Erb’s sales is in frozen foods such as hamburgers, hot dogs, bratwursts, pulled pork and potato twists, while another 40 percent is in concessions including popcorn, funnel cakes and inflatable equipment. Janitorial supplies account for the remainder, Kiser says, declining to disclose revenues.

Online customers can purchase and track orders, and print their invoices.

“Customers get their own account numbers and their own passwords,” Kiser says. “We track their history for them.”

Bouncing forward
Kiser has made strides to reach out to the public with Phil Erb’s products, too.

The general public can buy cotton candy, funnel cake mix and food equipment such as a popcorn machine for a home theater, Kiser says.

Additionally, he formed Air Time Entertainment on Jan. 1 to operate separately under Phil Erb Concessions, offering inflatables and catering services for events.

Air Time Entertainment joins a growing local inflatable and entertainment business market. Since mid-2008, Jump Mania, Jumpin’ Joey’s, Wacky World and Ozarks Entertainment LLC have opened, and Springfield-based veteran Amberg Entertainment opened its sixth location Nov. 1 in Sarasota, Fla.

The crowded competition is a concern for Ted Amberg, who founded Amberg Entertainment in 1996.

“I feel like we are getting too many people who think they can run an entertainment company because they’ve seen somebody else do it,” Amberg says. “I think there are not enough people doing it right. My fear is that these companies that I’m going to have to call fly-by-night in some ways are going to end up hurting the industry if they’re not careful how they proceed.”

Kiser says his company will continue to evolve with the market, and right now, he sees the inflatable rental business growing the company.[[In-content Ad]]

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