Foodservice Equipment Reports

What We Learned From Gordon Oates Jr.

We received more bad news last week when we learned of the passing of Gordon Oates Jr. on Dec. 5 after a long illness. He was only 62, but he left a significant mark on me and on the foodservice equipment business.

In a business with many multigenerational families, Gordon was in some ways royalty, though he’d hate me saying that. His father Gordon Oates Sr. ran Vulcan Hart, as it was then known, for years. Like many of his colleagues with parents in the business, Gordon went to work outside the industry, for IBM, the first decade of his career. But it only seemed natural that he would return to foodservice equipment. Over his long career, he worked for Vulcan in the PreMark era, for Garland, for Blodgett, for APW/Wyott, for Enodis, before ending his foodservice career with E-Source Inc., the Irving, Texas-based rep firm. He did national accounts, dealer sales and relationship management and was also senior management.

When we sent around news of his passing last week, the same words kept coming up about Gordon: honest, happy, and—without irony of any sort—nice. He truly was one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the honor to know. He also helped teach me, along with my partner Ken Gill and others, that you can be nice, and honest, and happy, and still be very successful in business, at least in this business. He was a genuine joy to know.

I know all of us who knew him have stories. I’ll share one. We were once together at a MAFSI meeting in Palm Springs, I can’t remember when, sometime between the mid-1980s and ’90s. It was a slow afternoon for the program, so Gordon, Mark Suchecki and I piled into Gordon’s rented Volvo S80. It was a new model at the time, and he thought it was just amazing. We zoomed up into the mountains above Palm Springs and got terribly, terribly lost. I can’t remember who was navigating, but I do remember us being very late getting back to the meeting. But it didn’t matter; we had a wonderful time. Gordon let each of us drive the car for a while. We told stories. We stopped for a beer in some bar and grill. There was snow up there. It was one of the most fun afternoons I’ve ever had.

I’m apparently not the only guy Gordon got lost with. For a truly wonderful remembrance of Gordon when he was still in college, check out this article about Gordon from his old friend Don Jewell in the magazine, GPS World:

So please, send me your Gordon story. We’ll create a place on the website where you can read them.

Our deepest sympathies to Gordon’s wife, Valerie, and daughters Sarah and Victoria, and to all of us who knew him. Rest in peace, friend.

And Happy Holidays and a healthy, fun and wildly successful 2014 to all of you.


Robin Ashton


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