Franklin Vendors

Arnold Dillon Jr. (left) and Arnold Dillon Sr. of Franklin Vendors Inc. stand beside their first vending machine. The age of the machine is not known. The price of snacks was 35 cents. The company is starting is 45th year of business.

While the company’s name has changed over its 45 years, Franklin Vendors Inc.’s commitment to its customers has not.

Before becoming Franklin Vendors Inc. in 1981, the business had been called Triangle Amusement, Arnold’s Amusements and Coin Operated Investors. Some customers have been with the company for more than 40 years.

Arnold Dillon Sr. started the business when he was 27 and chose vending machines because they were the cheapest business to get into with labor being the biggest cost. His son, Arnold Dillon Jr., started working with the company in 1986. For most of the company’s years in business, it has just been father and son.

Reflecting on his years with the business, Dillon Sr. said the business has been very good to them. “Our customers are the greatest people in the world,” he said. “We thank God and them.”

Dillon Sr. admits there were tough times with the business, especially during the late 1970s and early 1980s. But he expressed gratitude for support from Judge Bill Alexander, former Franklin County sheriff Quincy Overton and the late Ewell Naff, president of First Virginia Bank.

“These men had a lot of faith in me and helped me every way they could,” Dillon Sr. said. “They did everything they could to help me be able to stand on my own feet.”

In 1988 the company built its present headquarters at 960 State St., because, according to Dillon Sr., it was cheaper to build than to rent.

Over the years the products Franklin Vendors have sold has changed. In 1974 the company dealt with games. Dillon Jr. said when he started, he worked with drinks, snacks and cigarettes. Cigarettes started in about 1975 and ended in 1991.

The father and son have a good working relationship. Dillon Sr. handles the business end of things while Dillon Jr. services the machines, which total about 200 these days. Most of the machines are serviced weekly and are in Franklin County, Roanoke City and in parts of Pittsylvania County. They can be found in office buildings, convenience stores, factories, warehouses and schools.

Dillon Jr. said he admires his father’s business knowledge and how he always has the right advice (even if he doesn’t always agree). He said he also appreciates that his father has taught him that hard work pays off and understands the keys to the company’s success is his father’s commitment to customer service and low prices.

Dillon Sr. appreciates his son’s efforts with the business.

“He’s worked hard for a lot of years,” Dillon Sr. said. “When God sees fit to call me home, it’ll be his.”

The duo does not just have business on their minds. Besides their work, they value their faith, families and the community. Both have been and are active in the community. Dillon Sr. served on the Rocky Mount Town Council for eight years, and Dillon Jr. has worked for Franklin County Parks and Recreation for more than 18 years.

Dillon Sr. said the biggest lesson he’s learned from having his own business is “how many nice people there are out there and how much they come to mean to you.”

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