Foodservice Equipment Reports
Publisher's Viewpoint

Remembering Bob Raymond, And Why It’s Important

KEYWORDS costantini
Another former giant of the foodservice equipment and supplies business passed away a few weeks ago. Bob Raymond, whose given surname was Costantini, was a huge presence in this industry from the 1950s right up until a few years ago. His signature achievement was helping George Shelly build out and manage what was then known as the Alco Standard Food Service Group, the multi-brand foodservice equipment conglomerate whose brands today makes up, in part, Manitowoc Foodservice.

As a young chief editor running an equipment and supplies magazine in the early ’80s, I learned a lot from Bob and his wife, Sandy, who is an industry giant in her own right. They were always very, very gracious to me.

Bob’s family started Victory Metal Manufacturing, later, Victory Refrigeration, outside Philadelphia. His older brother Anthony, who died suddenly way too young, ran Victory in the ’60s. Bob ran sales and marketing. Sandy, a registered dietician, was hired by Victory to help with the institutional segments. They got married. Sandy helped invent the concepts behind blast chilling in the late ’60s.

In the late ’70s, Bob helped sell Victory to McGraw-Edison, one of the very first of the big foodservice equipment conglomerates, and became president at Shelly Manufacturing in Miami. Once there, he helped George Shelly build out Alco Food Service. Under their leadership, Alco—built through acquisition—believed in letting the brands manage themselves. In doing so, Alco became a dominant force in the ’80s with brands such as Frymaster, Delfield, Lincoln, Savory, Redco and others. Bob was one of the company’s few corporate executives, and helped coordinate the brands’ go-to-market strategies.

Bob believed in marketing and advertising, building the Alco brand and the brands under its banner. They were our biggest advertiser in those days. They would buy and we would help produce huge 32- and 64-page sections dubbed Alco Alley for shows like The NAFEM Show and the NRA Show. But he never tried to get us to do anything that was unfair or unreasonable. “We buy your magazine because it’s good and goes to the right people,” he would say to me.

It all worked very well through the early and mid ’80s. I always tell people Alco worked about as well as any conglomerate I’ve seen in this business. Then Alco, a public company, decided to spin off the group. Richard Hirsch at Welbilt bought it and sold it and bought it again, until finally it was renamed Enodis. And then, a decade or so later, it was purchased by Manitowoc.

After Alco sold the company, Bob and Sandy set themselves up as distributors and manufacturers’ reps in Florida and were very, very successful. Among other accomplishments, they were brilliant at selling equipment to the big cruise lines. Bob and Sandy were very good at selling cook-chill systems with blast chillers/freezers and combi ovens. Their son Michael and nephew Chip Costantini run the business, Unisource Marketing Group, today.

So rest in peace, my friend. It was a very good run. It must have been fun because you always owned the biggest boats in the industry. Thanks for taking me along for the ride.
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