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Savannah Stalwart: Restaurant Equipment Co.

  • David Dougal (sales), Lonnie Harley (sales), Steven Bernstein (owner), Jeff Carey (senior leader of sales), William Chaviz (sales) are a few of the key members of Restaurant Equipment Co. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News)
  • Photo print of Steven Bernstein and fellow employees at his Restaurant Equipment Co. over the years. (Josh Galemore/Savannah Morning News)

Company president Steve Bernstein answered questions for this series.

Location and hours:

2601 Whitaker St. Open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

How long have you been in business?

The company has been here 45 years and counting, according to company president, Steve Bernstein, whose family has been in the restaurant equipment business since 1898.

How many employees do you have?

Seven.

How would you describe your business?

We are a full-service business specializing in the sales of equipment and smallwares to the hospitality and food service industry. Our customer base is coastal Georgia and South Carolina. Focusing primarily on the commercial side, we are also open to the public and sell everything from a single knife to a completely-equipped kitchen. We are available to our valuable customers throughout their business day, regardless of whether it’s a last-minute emergency order of glassware or a much-needed range or refrigerator.

How has your business changed over the years?

We are a nuts-and-bolts operation — a chair is a chair, a fryer is a fryer. But new technology and new food trends have impacted our inventory choices. ­Multicultural influences have added Tepanyaki and panini grills, espresso machines, Mocajito bowls, Tandori ovens and others. Other powerful changes have come from the computer and internet. Ebay has shown us the global reality of selling to anyone, anywhere.

As a charter member of Pride Centric Resources, a major marketing group, we enjoy a wider selection of manufacturers and overseas products than in the past. This has led to enhanced purchasing power and helped us provide quality products at better pricing to our customers. Perhaps the biggest change to our business is Savannah’s burgeoning tourist and hospitality scene, encouraging more and people to dine out. After all, our slogan is “Eat out, it’s good for us.”

What has been your biggest challenge and how have you overcome it?

Major challenges have always been competition from big box entities and national food wholesalers who are now entering our market. We are a modest, under-the-radar business that has endured and succeeded because of loyal customers who appreciate our fairness and honesty and rely on our years of experience and depth of knowledge.

What aspect of the business are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the fact that we are still a very vital business after 45 years of service. The loyalty of customers, some for more than 30 years, and the same loyalty from our staff make us extremely proud. Jeff Carey, Lonnie Harley, David Dougal and William Chevis have shown integrity and commitment to our organization and we appreciate all they do.

Stalwart is defined as “marked by outstanding strength and vigor; loyal, hardworking and reliable.” What is it about your business that makes it a Savannah stalwart?

We have endured during good and bad business cycles due to hard work, a friendly atmosphere, and an excellent knowledge of our products and the industry. Many of our employees have been with us for more than 30 years. Our loyal, committed staff knows this industry well, and they are eager to share their knowledge with our customers. They are the true stalwarts and we appreciate their constant efforts to make us a better business. We are an informally structured company in that, instead of set job descriptions, everyone does everything they can to help keep things running smoothly.

What do you hope for the future of your business?

The industry — and the competitive landscape — is so much more complicated than it was when we started 45 years ago. But our goals remain the same — to build and maintain great relationships with our customer base, to provide unparalleled service and fair pricing, and to work as hard as we can to contribute to our customers’ success. We would also like to expand our internet presence to help keep our business relevant in the 21st century.

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