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Einhorn happy to be the middle-man

Gary Einhorn's organic food distribution company, Beardsley's Natural Foods, is warehoused in a couple mini-storage units in Ashland. The producers he represents say he's an ardent pitchman for their products. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven — — — — Organic-food distributor well-liked by vendors and local businesses

Gary Einhorn has found his niche, and a growing one at that.

Nonetheless, developing a natural, organic and specialty foods distributorship and brokerage has often been as much a labor of love as a thriving enterprise.

But after 15 years of running Beardsley's Natural Foods in Jackson, Josephine and Siskiyou counties, Einhorn has made his mark.

Gary has an outstanding group of followers that trust his taste and research on products, says David Gremmels, co-owner of Rogue Creamery. They respect his honesty and integrity in representing products that are natural and environmentally friendly. He not only knows our product and our ingredients but also our values.

— Beardsley Natural Foods deals products developed by 20 local and regional companies to 60 grocery stores, restaurants, wineries, gourmet stores, hospitals, farmers markets and campus outlets.

But more than simply getting their products onto shelves, into kitchens and on menus, Einhorn sees eye-to-eye with his vendors. His resolute devotion to them is an endearing quality not often seen in the business world, colleagues say.

When he believes in your product he just goes out there and hustles it, says Susan Powell, owner of Global Pantry World Food in Ashland. I can't believe the job he's done, particularly with our granola.

Ashland's Shop 'N' Kart store recently did a promotion of Global Pantry World Food's granola, selling more than 120 pounds in a few days.

Part of the promotion was during the weekend when the bulk manager was gone, Powell says. Gary kept going over and every time he saw the bin was empty he filled it up.

It takes time, however, to build trust with sellers and buyers.

Einhorn moved to Southern Oregon in 1987. He says it took five years for the enterprise to gain traction. But it's steadily gained steam since he hooked up with Rising Sun Farms between Phoenix and Talent.

He replicated the business model he followed for three years in a similar venture in the lower Hudson River Valley, building sales revenues to nearly &

36;250,000 before selling and heading west. Beardsley was a family name and one that reached back to the colonial era.

In New York, Einhorn didn't reach into restaurants or supermarket chains, but that changed when he arrived in Jackson County. A smaller, isolated population required a wider swath of outlets.

Chances are that I sell something to almost every restaurant, Einhorn says. Maybe it's one item, maybe seven items.

He makes no apologies for being the oft-maligned middle-man in the business chain

My thinking about distribution is that it's a cost of doing business for the producer, Einhorn says. If the producer decided to eliminate the middle-man and do it themselves there's a cost of doing that part of the business.

I serve a very important function ' sales is my biggest job. I'm the producers' arms and legs.

Employees Ben Benjamin and his wife, Sally Jones, give Einhorn greater reach in the aisles and bins.

When we go into stores, we're the producers' eyes and ears, Einhorn says. When I go into stores, I know lot of people who give me feedback. Since I'm physically there, the feedback is something you might not get back when you're shipping caseloads across the country.

Einhorn also has made inroads where local products aren't always welcome ' national chains such as Albertsons and Kroger's Fred Meyer. The way he sees it, the supermarkets lose shoppers to specialty markets when they don't carry the kinds of products he sells.

To compete locally, the big boys need to carry local products, Einhorn says. I don't represent all the local producers, but it is important for them to compete, and therefore I'm able to represent a significant number of local people and get them into really large markets.

The company's distribution base has grown about 20 percent in the past year. A primary reason for the recent growth is Rogue Creamery.

It's opened up more accounts for me, Einhorn says. I never had done cheese before. Having cheese gives me an opportunity to sell additional products.

Rogue Creamery had strong distribution in Portland and Seattle, but was hamstrung locally.

There was a time when we had our own distribution, says Gremmels, the creamery's co-owner. We just decided it didn't work in-house. It distracted us from what we do best: making world-class, award winning cheeses. Gary brings good balance to us as distributor and our spokesperson to our customer.

Gary Einhorn?s organic food distribution company, Beardsley?s Natural Foods, is warehoused in a couple mini-storage units in Ashland. The producers he represents say he?s an ardent pitchman for their products. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune images