FreshBrew buys Tri-Cities Vending

Beaumont acquisition could triple sales in 18 months

Houston-based FreshBrew Vending, a subsidiary of FreshBrew Group, has acquired Beaumont’s largest vending company, Tri-Cities Vending, in an effort to begin expanding its Houston operations. All operations were transitioned to FreshBrew Vending on May 1.

“We couldn’t be more excited about taking the first steps in expanding our vending services to other markets,” said Steven Weyel, chief operations officer for FreshBrew Group. “We look forward to working with all of Tri-Cities’ employees as we enhance our operational offerings to our new client base.”

FreshBrew has invested in cutting-edge technology to ensure its vending products offer the very best services to both its clients as well as the vending end user.
“The built-in mobile communication between our drivers and home office enable us to respond to any issues within a two-hour timeframe,” said Weyel.

In addition, FreshBrew Vending offers elevated security control over its machines that includes full cash control of each location as well as cyber locks, which only enable keyed access to the machine during the designated employee’s shift hours. Any other time of day, the cyber lock restricts access to the machines.

In an interview with the Business Journal, Ali Ansari, president of FreshBrew Group, said while the security features will not necessarily make their vending machines immune to a teenager with a crowbar, the technology greatly enhances customer service and internal quality control and called the Tri-Cities acquisition a major boost for FreshBrew fortunes.

“It’s not only the immediate boost to the size and scope of our vending business that makes this acquisition so exciting for us,” he said. “We are even more excited about all the Beaumont Tri-Cities employees who are now joining our organization. With decades of combined experience in the vending industry, we see the dedication and passion each person is going to bring to our team.”

The Beaumont market offers FreshBrew Vending the opportunity to expand its services into other industries, such as refineries, additional hospital systems and potentially some casinos in Louisiana.

Despite the name, FreshBrew is no longer really in the retail coffee business per se, explained Ansari.

“We sold our office coffee division to a company called Filter Fresh, who recently got bought out by Aramark, so we’re strictly a coffee roaster and a vending company. We’re not doing coffee vending; we’re just doing snacks, drinks and frozen product,” he said, emphasizing the food quality in vending machines has greatly improved in recent years. “Now you have Kraft products; you’ve got Tombstone pizzas; you’ve got amazing brands now – they’re frozen and you just microwave them up, with a combination of ice cream and food in the machine. You get the best of both worlds.”

Ansari said the Tri-Cities acquisition will not be their first foray into business in this area.

“We’re excited to come to Beaumont. Our family used to own the Gateway Shopping Center a few years ago, so we’re very familiar with Beaumont,” he said. “We sold it right before the hurricane in 2005.”

He said FreshBrew will retain all Tri-Cities employees and none will be transferred to Houston. “We’re looking to hire more people in Beaumont as we expand our services and grow that market,” said Ansari.

FreshBrew Vending is Houston’s largest privately owned full service vending company with customers in the region’s eight-county area with what they describe as “an enterprise-wide commitment to its customers that redefines full service vending.”

— James Shannon

Business Journal editor James Shannon offers a weekly column of business news for readers of The Examiner. For more details, see the editions of the Business journal published monthly in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Greater Orange. Check out the blog at or e-mail

Adios, Rajan

Total project director takes on his new role in Beijing

The deer and the antelope play at the Griffith Ranch, a 300-acre spread near Winnie and the home of exotic game and Carl Griffith, the former sheriff and county judge. It was in the latter role that he helped facilitate the Deep Conversion Project at the Total Port Arthur Refinery, a multi-billion dollar expansion that has positioned the facility to play a major role in 21st century fuel production.

Now some five years later, a small gathering in the hangar at the ranch is bidding a fond farewell to one of the major players in the project. Griffith, now a private citizen, has gathered friends and public officials for a crawfish boil in honor of Rajan Krishnan, who came to Southeast Texas as Deep Conversion Project director. In two days he would depart for Beijing, where he will play an integral role in Total’s new coal gasification efforts in China.

On this night, Rajan and his wife Sunitha are enjoying the company of friends even as they contemplate the next adventure in their lives.

Deloris “Bobbie” Prince, mayor of Port Arthur, was in attendance. She has been a prominent supporter of the Deep Conversion Project since it was in the conception stage, but her presence here is also personal.

“I wanted to wish Mr. Krishnan well in his new job, and to thank him and Total for all their efforts here in Port Arthur,” said Prince. In her job as mayor, she moves easily between the personal and the political with her acknowledgement of what Total represents in the community as both a job-creating business and conscientious corporate citizen.

Similar recognition can be construed from the presence of Jefferson County Commissioners Everett “Bo” Alfred, Michael “Shane” Sinegal and Brent Weaver along with district court judges Bob Wortham and Mickey Shuffield. The social lubricant of the crawfish boil with the attendant corn, potatoes and beer has been a familiar ingredient in forging bonds of friendship.

“A week after I came to Port Arthur, they took me to my first crawfish boil,” recalled Krishnan with a chuckle. “I have really learned to enjoy Cajun food, more so than the rest of my family.”

Krishnan had previously held management positions at Total’s heavy oil joint venture in Venezuela before coming to Total Port Arthur Refinery as technical manager in 2002. He became assistant general manager in 2003 before being named director of the Deep Conversion Project in 2006.

With more than a decade of his 24 years with Total spent in Port Arthur, Krishnan has forged deep ties in Southeast Texas. His two sons were largely raised here – one attends Johns Hopkins in Maryland; the other works for Total.

“This is our home now,”  he said. “When I retire, we will return here.”

A native of India, Krishnan followed a circuitous route to Texas. He graduated from the University of Calicut in India as a chemical engineer in 1975.

“A lot of engineering students from India have found much success in the United States but I didn’t really want to leave home – so I said ‘Let me go to France,’” he said. France was much closer to home so he continued his studies there, earning a Masters degree in chemical engineering from the French Petroleum Institute.

Perhaps it was inevitable that Krishnan would then go to work for the Paris-based Total, one of the world’s largest integrated international oil and gas companies that   operates in more than 130 countries.

Krishnan’s job has taken him to all corners of the globe. In addition to his current posting to China and his earlier sojourn to Venezuela, his first assignment in the United States was in New Jersey. He became an American citizen in 2002.

His passion for his work is evident. At the conclusion of an interview with the Business Journal, Krishnan said, “You can build or you can transform but you must put your heart in it.”

Rajan Krishnan may be in China now, but he left a significant chunk of his heart in Texas – and said he will be back to get it.

Business Journal editor James Shannon offers a weekly column of business news for readers of The Examiner. For more details, see the editions of the Business journal published monthly in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Greater Orange. Check out the blog at or e-mail