Horizon Equipment President Tracy Smith is putting together a recipe for future growth at the Eagan-based food-service equipment dealership as he shifts the business from bakeries and delis to restaurants.
Smith, a 20-year veteran of Cargill's feed division, has expanded beyond Horizon Equipment's bakery-centric roots, rebranding it as a "kitchen outfitter" that offers consulting and design services for restaurants.
Horizon — which also supplies, installs and services kitchen equipment — is the only locally owned food-service equipment dealer of significant size in Minnesota and among the largest independently owned such dealers in the state, he said.
After Cargill, Smith owned a handful of bakery cafes in Colorado and became a Horizon customer. After selling his restaurants, he moved to Minnesota to manage Horizon.
Smith and a partner in 2001 bought Horizon, which started as an arm of a baking-supply company. He added an equipment business for supermarket bakeries and delis.
More recently, he pivoted the business to target restaurants, which now make up more than 80% of Horizon's business.
Restaurant customers include In Bloom at the Keg and Case Market in St. Paul, House of Wong in Roseville and Funky Grits in Minneapolis and its new fairgrounds location.
Now, Smith is considering next-generation leadership.
His son, purchasing and operations manager Ryan Smith, leads Horizon's kitchen design service.
The elder Smith envisions his son having an ownership stake and strategic role. The younger Smith joined Horizon in 2011 after managing bakery services for Whole Foods.
Also part of new leadership is controller Andrew Youngquist, who joined in June. New to food service, Youngquist has worked in retail, automation and health care and has had human resources experience.
Youngquist, who earned an MBA from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, was director of human resources at health care investment firm Savvysherpa from 2010 through its sale this year to UnitedHealth Group.
He previously was a senior financial analyst with Emerson Process Management and a business analyst at Macy's.
Q: What advantages does Horizon have as an independent dealer?
Smith: I like the Cargill philosophy of empower the people: If it's legal, ethical and makes good business sense, Cargill always said do it. That's what we try to do. We can out maneuver [bigger competitors] as a one-stop turnkey provider.
Q: What does Youngquist's outside perspective bring?
Smith: It challenges the system. If you look at it with a different set of eyes and ask questions it leads to improvement. The real asset value with Andrew was the diversity in his previous employment not only in accounting and business but in HR as well.
When you're a small company and trying to grow and continuing to add employees, you're not big enough to have your own HR department.
Q: How are you applying your experience here?
Youngquist: Having the retail background, the mantra was to have the right product in the right place at the right time. That idea of making sure we are on the cutting edge of what the customer wants and trying to be a step ahead or two, bringing some of that mentality as we continue to grow, that was exciting as well as the growth whether through acquisition or meeting with new clients, helping to grow that and making that as smooth as possible.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is email@example.com.