Sikeston Restaurant Equipment -- a slice of the market

Sunday, June 15, 2003

By Jill Bock

Special to Business Today

SIKESTON - It all began with a search for a used meat slicer, explained Duke McDonald.

Back in the 1970s, as owner of McDonald's Food Mart in East Prairie, McDonald was looking for a used slicer for his business. The more calls he made, the more he realized there was a niche market being overlooked.

"Well, I bought a new slicer," said McDonald. "And I started a new business."

McDonald's business, which offers used restaurant equipment, began in a small warehouse in East Prairie.

"I found that rather than a sideline, it grew into a full-time business really quickly," he said.

Over the next 20 years, McDonald and his wife, Pat, would develop their equipment business, McDonald's Fixtures and Equipment, into a full-time operation with two warehouses and customers nationwide.

Originally intending to offer used equipment, the company soon added new equipment as manufacturer representatives became familiar with the Southeast Missouri business owners.

"I've hooked up with manufacturers all over the United States," said McDonald. He said this wasn't easy since restaurant equipment manufacturers typically are very careful in choosing suppliers, wanting to ensure quality and service for their customers.

Now his business has expanded again.

In 2002, the McDonalds opened Sikeston Restaurant Equipment at 803 S. Main St. Their son, Brad, serves as the store's manager.

Until the opening of the new store, McDonald did much of his business over the phone. Restaurants owners, grocers and others needing equipment would call him, and he in turn would check his warehouse or order directly from the manufacturer for shipping to customers.

"Our market is mainly a 100-mile radius, but we also have customers in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois," said McDonald. "We ship all over the United States. I've built up a large network of customers over the last 20 years."

That network, he admits, sometimes surprises him. He expected a list of customers to include restaurants and grocery stores, but today he also assists those who operate convenience stores, hospitals and nursing homes along with churches and organizations.

Through Sikeston Restaurant Equipment they can find everything from smallware -- which Pat McDonald explained are things like forks, knives, condiment bottles, plates -- to 60-gallon pots and full-size walk-in coolers. There are popcorn machines and coffee machines, deep-fat fryers and ice makers.

"People are often surprised by the amount of inventory we carry -- it is a huge amount for this business," she said.

The lines carried at Sikeston Restaurant Equipment include True refrigeration, which provides almost 70 percent of the beverage cooler business in the U.S. and much of the international business, Duke McDonald said.

Customers will also find Masterbilt, which makes coolers, U.S. Range, Ice-O-Matic and Scotsman ice machines, Duke Convection Ovens, Star fryers and grills, Fry-Master and other brands.

Sikeston Restaurant Equipment provides service for the equipment sold.

Even more people may soon become familiar with the McDonalds and their way of doing business. McDonald said since Sikeston Restaurant Equipment has proved to be a success, they are considering opening stores in the Mt. Vernon, Ill., area and possibly Memphis, Tenn.

Jill Bock is editor of the Standard Democrat in Sikeston.

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