Arctic Spotlight: Joe Gonzales of Ace Mart

We recently sat down with Joe Gonzales of Ace Mart to discuss his story, their flourishing business, and why Ace Mart trusts Arctic as a valued supplier for their cooling needs.

Joe, please briefly tell us about the Ace Mart story and how you came to join the team and work your way into the Contract & Design Project Manager position.

“I’ve been with Ace Mart since 2018, previously working under Small-wares outside sales. However, after the pandemic I was able to get into what I really love, which is the contract and design team, where I’ve been able to really flourish. It’s been great working with all the vendors and suppliers. Most of all though, it’s always fun going out and doing these build outs and whatnot in the field. 

David Johnson, with Raleigh W. Johnson & Co., is the rep we work with for Arctic. He’s been very hands on, has given me a lot of insight on what you guys do. We thought it was a great fit, so it was a no-brainer to work with you guys. As Ace Mart does well with Arctic, we continue to get more involved! It’s been a lot of fun!”

What does a typical day like for you, specifically in the Contract & Design Project Manager Position?

“If we’re working on a project, a typical day usually starts with us taking drawings and looking at the project as a whole. We’re heavily involved in the design. After the design is done, then we take it to the customer and present it to them. If any revisions need to be made, we’ll get that done throughout the course of the day. We work to get them a quote for the items that they’re looking to put in their kitchen. We also work with reps to negotiate a good price. Once we get through that process, we make the pitch. After closing the sale, we get everything ordered and start working on the project management side of it. This is the fun part because that’s when I can get out there and meet with all my subcontractors, give them their scope of work, and essentially provide the customer the opportunity to meet my team. This lets them know that they’re in good hands because it’s me that will be controlling the subcontractor. 

Our customers have a lot on their plate, so we want to make it as easy for them and our owner to know that he doesn’t have to worry about the kitchen side of things. Our flow is as easy as possible for our clients so they’re not having to worry about all the small details. I tell my clients if I have a problem, I’m going to come to you with a solution before I actually give you the problem. It might cost some money at the end of the day, but that’ll be the decision we’ll come across when we get to it. 

So, that’s how it’s usually run throughout the course of a project. Every day is different. Every project is different. Everything just depends on how much work we have going on; how many projects are involved at the time. Right now, I think we’re up to about 12, and they’re all active.”

There is a lot of talk regarding the economy and consumer sentiment within it. What have been areas of strength at Ace Mart with regards to products? Are there any surprises on some strong performers?

“The good thing about Ace Mart is we are willing to go the extra mile. We are willing to go and do whatever it takes to give the customer what they really want and deserve. Even if that means we have to reevaluate our discounts, our pricing, or even our deliveries. We always listen and recognize what our customers bring to the table when it comes to supporting their business. We want to do what’s best for them by always putting them first. 

Because of this approach to customer service, Ace Mart has higher sales and achieved record-breaking months! The contract and design department has done really well. We’ve beat last year’s goal, and are on target to beat this year’s goal. We work hard to make sure that our customers’ needs are met and that our job is done right. That’s what it’s all about! We want everyone to remember THEIR Ace Mart experience.

For example, a lot of times you go out and buy a burger from Whataburger or In-N-Out Burger. It’s the experience that you’re paying for, right? You want to know, “Do I get better service? Do I get better products?” That’s what Ace Mart offers. It is the experience, and we go above and beyond to make sure you remember why you chose Ace Mart in the first place.”

How does Ace Mart stand out in Houston, or really everywhere for that matter? How is the organization different from others in the restaurant supply space?

“We’ve got 17 superstores across Texas and are looking to acquire other companies. So, we’re now growing in West Texas as well. Ace Mart has a good standing overall in Texas. 

Our web team is doing a really good job with web sales these days, they’re hitting some outrageous numbers right now. We’re the first in the industry to implement a “FREE Pickup In Store/ Ship to Store” option for online orders. The web store department has a great team that’s working hard every day. 

Our leaders work to increase revenue through different avenues, not just through small wares or small equipment sales within our retail stores. We’re in our third generation of leadership now, which is Jonathan Gustafson and he’s brought a lot to the table. He’s brought young, innovative, analytical people within the organization that can really up the ante, so to speak. 

I think it’s worth mentioning that pretty much anybody can go to the internet, order something, and have them drop it off at your doorstep.  But who’s going to want to go and put that stuff in your kitchen? We are. We’re always going the extra mile. We’re going to unbox it, take the trash out, put the casters on, and make it ready to go. That’s what makes us unique and why there’s no one else that does that.”

Are there any special plans or initiatives for Ace Mart in the coming year or two that you would say are exciting for the foodservice customer base?

“Oh man, there are a lot of things going on for Ace Mart that I think are exciting. Every company’s goal is to reach a certain amount of revenue by 2026, and we’re well on our way towards that. I can’t get into exact specifics, but I can say one of them was the acquisition of Wichita Restaurant Supply. We’re working on different avenues to fulfill company goals as well as we reach new customers and concepts across the state. 

We recently added our own delivery service here in Houston. We had it in San Antonio and it was test running in Austin, but now we have it in Houston. We’re running wild, and there’s no stopping us!”

How do you see the walk-in market specifically from a strategic approach? What are the three most important factors for you when talking walk-ins with the customer?

“That’s a great question, I think that the quality behind walk-in coolers is misunderstood. Price is a big deciding factor when it comes to a walk-in. Selling quality over quantity is hard, especially with walk-in coolers because there’s no shortage of vendors out there for walk-in coolers. 

What we try to do is make sure that we fulfill the needs of the customer; we ask, “What is it for? What are we doing? Where is it going?” We give them the options to let them know ideally “X” is what we would recommend because of what they’re doing. 

Arctic provides better refrigeration and a better-quality box overall, than most of its competitors. The look of your walk-in cooler is great. Not only that, but the design team is outstanding when it comes to going out and doing the drawings for the customer. There are so many things that you guys provide that some of these others can’t, and that’s what makes Arctic unique. Every time we get a drawing, we give it to customers so we can show them that this is exactly what your cooler is going to look like. We’re dimension critical. We can go around columns. There’s really no limit to what we can do with Arctic as our walk-in of choice. 

Lastly, we like to talk about the budget with our customers. We’ll work out of that situation if we have to, but ultimately this is what we would highly recommend for you. We certainly want to make sure that our customers understand that we want to give them quality. We understand it’s your money and you’re going to do what you want to, but we definitely want you to understand the option rather than making a quick sale based solely on prices.”

After working with Arctic on CounterCommon Beerworks & Kitchen, what are your thoughts on how Arctic meets the demand of our customers and partners? What could we be doing better? What topics would you like to see addressed by our Engineering Pros?

“I think Arctic does a really great job overall. It’s hard to sit here and pinpoint something exactly. There’s always room for improvement, but I will say that David, our rep here in Houston, has done a great job at vetting. He’s great at doing essential field management in order to get this info over to the Arctic team so that you guys can do a good job in quoting it. The accuracy from us to you is what’s most important for you to be able to do your job because you’re not actually seeing our customer, you’re seeing us. 

Once the quote comes in, he tends to look it over with a fine-tooth comb before he even gets to me, which I think is a huge bonus because he’s able to point out things or see things that I may have missed. It’s like putting an extra set of eyes on it before it even gets to me. When it does get to me, then I make sure we’re dimension critical. I make sure that all our dimensions meet exactly what we said it was going to meet. 

Arctic’s standard of cooler is great, I think the quality of it speaks for itself. It speaks volumes, really. I think you guys have an amazing product, all of the details in the refrigeration are very easy to read, easily accessible. Overall, I think it’s great.”

What went well on the CounterCommon Beerworks & Kitchen project? Sounds like an ideal job from manufacturing to install.

“That is our go to cooler. It is one of the most beautiful coolers I’ve ever installed. It has a fantastic barn door and it’s massive!  When we have clients that come down and they want to take a peek, that’s literally the go-to kitchen and walk-in cooler.

Jaime and Dennis were great to work with, they are the owners of CounterCommon Beerworks & Kitchen. They were very patient, very understanding, and very reasonable. When David came in to do his part there, we avoided any potential order hiccups and it was such a smooth project from start to finish. 

The one thing that everybody loves the most about this cooler, and there’s been at least 20+ people that have come and seen this cooler, they all say exactly the same thing. “Wow.” The first thing they gravitate to is the barn door. They love that door. It was engineered to perfection. Believe it or not, the general contractor we worked with, told me and my subcontractors that he’s never worked with anybody as precise about what they do and as efficient as they are, like Arctic. He was so pleased with the work, he’s actually contracted the same subcontractors to work for him now at other kitchens. So, not only did we come in good on that, our subcontractors got a lot more work out of that as well. The general contractor even calls me occasionally and tells me to bid out things for him when he needs it. This project worked out so well for us and CounterCommon Beerworks & Kitchen.”

What exciting events, product launches, or campaigns are coming up in 2023 for Ace Mart?

“I do believe that we have a product knowledge meeting with you guys in the next couple of weeks, so this will give you guys a chance to showcase a little bit about what you do with the contract and design team for all four of our major markets. Everybody will get to meet our designers and really give them a feel for what you guys are able to bring to the table. 

The good thing, aside from that, is that a couple of the other markets have actually come down to see the actual cooler, so they’ve got a good idea of what it is. The one thing about designers, is that when they’ve had an experience with anybody, they tend to stick to that route. They don’t usually explore other options, which isn’t always a bad thing. With our new supervisor right now, Ethan Curry, who’s the head of our department, he’s making the headway for everyone to kind of branch out and say that we’re great with your options, but there’s also other options out there as well. One of the things that I love about Ethan the most is that he’s always open to allowing us to explore what’s out there. This is a great opportunity for you to meet the other designers and share with them not only what Arctic has to offer, but what you guys have done and could do together.”

If you could sum up Ace Mart in 30 words or less, what would you say the company is all about?

“This is always the toughest question, but I’ll make it simple and easy. 

Ace Mart is all about the customer. 

That’s really what it is. We are simply all about the customer. We want to make them happy. We will go the extra mile, and have good people that work for us. Our leadership team are amazing, family-oriented people. They put quality of life ahead of everything. I think as long as we can keep that mindset, knowing that we all have each other’s back and we all support each other in what we do, there’s no limit to what Ace Mart can do.”

Thanks for taking the time to sit down and chat with us, Joe!