The Peanut King
Remember pressing your nose against the display case of the nut counter, watching the slowly turning lazy susan that was filled to over flowing with every kind of nut?
Those nut counters, like the neighborhood five-and-dime stores that housed them, have disappeared. A visit to the Richard Green Co., Inc. brings those memories back to life.
Richard Green owns the oldest and one of the largest nut processing businesses in Indiana. "The Peanut King", middle-aged, with wisps of gray beginning to show in his sandy hair, Green projects a calmness that belies the ambition that has driven him to be a success. He smiles as he recalls arriving in Indianapolis at the age of 15 after hitchhiking from his home in the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee with four dollars in his pocket and the determination to "never to be poor again."
He quickly learned the importance of money. "Back home," he says, "we could trade a couple of chickens, a dozen eggs, or ham for something we wanted. Money wasn't important."
Green served a sixteen-month tour of duty in Korea before he returned to Indianapolis, married and began work at the 7-Up Bottling Company. He also bought, for $15, his first vending machine. It was a profitable venture that convinced him to quit his job with 7-Up.
At 22, he was positive that the bank would be eager to finance his great business idea, so he asked for a loan of several thousand dollars. "The loan officer was very nice." Green says. "He explained that I would have to be in business for several years before I could get such a large loan. Then he advised me to forget peanuts and try to get my job back."
Instead, Green went to a finance company, borrowed $500, bought seven vending machines and started his business. He put the machines in service stations and laundromats; locations that had proven ideal for machines that delivered a handful of peanuts for a nickel.
"It wasn't easy in those early years." Green recalls. He continued to reinvest his profits until he owned 9,000 peanut vending machines. Soon, he and Millie, his wife, began roasting their own peanuts to ensure quality and freshness. As their involvement with processing nuts increased, they began selling the machines, and the Richard Green Nut Company was born.
A few years ago, Green encountered the bank loan officer that turned down his initial request. By then, Green was very successful and processing a lot of peanuts, and the loan officer wasn't doing to badly himself: Harry L. Binder was president of American Fletcher National Bank.
In response to customer request, he continued to expand the business with raw and pre-popped corn, and also manufactured his own brand of popcorn oil & salt, snow cone flavorings, and selling all types of new and used concession equipment. He also has a delivery service that runs daily all over the state of Indiana.
Millie started in the early 1980's in the basement of The Richard Green Co. giving cake decorating classes. That has turned into a very successful cake decorating and design company of her own. http://www.amazingcakesofindy.com/
"We've come a long way since we bought that first peanut machine for $15.00 in the 1950's," he adds. "And the best part is we've done it together."