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Cedar Mill News

Volume 9, Issue 4
April 2011

Mountain Man
The three-tier cart is provided by the company. The custom insulated covers protect the products, and are made by the mother of a distributor in Colorado.

Featured Business
Joanne Hollister,
Mountain Man Distributor
by Virginia Bruce

Joanne Hollister is a friendly, outgoing and energetic person who seems to have found her perfect job as a distributor and franchise owner of the Mountain Man Nut & Fruit Company line of snacks and gift items. Every weekday (and occasionally on Saturdays) she visits offices and other locations where her eager customers stream out of their workplaces to attack her cart laden with goodies.

"Mountain Man (MM) began in Colorado in 1977, and came to Oregon the following year," Joanne explains "There are warehouses in those two states. Under licensing agreements, Oregon cannot have a retail store (although there are several in Colorado). The only way you can purchase our products is through our 30-plus distributors. Each distributor buys a territory, and they cannot sell in another territory unless they do an event or fair. The territories are defined by major roads and can vary in size by population, the number of businesses and density." Joanne's territory is known as North Beaverton and is bounded by 185th Avenue, Springville, Sylvan, and Canyon Roads, and Tualatin Valley Highway.

productsShe says her involvement with the company began about three and a half years ago, with a bag of veggie chips. "My sister and I drove down to California for a family event and she had several bags of Mountain Man snacks with her. I devoured the Veggie Chips and kept the bag so I could find out how to get more. I had never heard of Mountain Man Nut and Fruit Co. before that. On the front of the bag was the phone number with the phrase 'Distributorships Available.' I was looking for a small business, but had no idea what this was all about. I called and got the number of the distributor in the territory where I lived, and one question led to another, and three months later I was the happy owner of the North Beaverton Area Mountain Man Nut & Fruit Co. The territory was twice the size it is now and was operated by a husband and wife team. I bought half of their territory and another woman purchased the other half two years ago."

The business model involves creating a route of locations where there are groups of customers. She describes a typical workday: "I load my car with inventory, and hit my first customer around 9 am. I love that I can say "around"—no time clock. I roll my three-basket cart out of the back of my Element and enter my first office usually by 9:15. Sometimes I set up my cart in the lobby of an office, and sometimes I go into their break room so they can come in on their scheduled break time. I can spend five minutes in an office or 30 minutes. It depends on their schedule and how many employees are in the company. I see most everyone twice a month. I do have "emergency" calls—I won't mention who, but I have several offices that have "chocolate emergencies" and I need to get to them that day! I fit them in, I understand."

Her training consisted of spending two weeks on the route with the previous owner. The route, at that time, consisted of half a day's worth of stops. "I bought my territory right after the mortgage crisis and the beginning of the employment downturn. Many of the clients on my list were no longer in business. It has taken time, but now I have a full-time route and work at least 8 hours a day, including office time."

She says, "It took a good year to understand what I was doing. I had to learn quickly the art of time management, organization, and all of the details of running a business. It was difficult for the first year. The second year I began to understand what I was doing and by the third year I was flying through my day with ease. Now as I go into my fourth year I find time to be creative and think about ways to promote MM not only in my territory, but also statewide."


Joanne's Honda Element is the perfect size and shape to be a travelling storehouse for her products—the cart rolls right in.

Joanne gets her products from the warehouse in Salem. To save on gas, she and the owner of the South Beaverton territory take turns picking up products every two weeks.

She is very proud of and enthusiastic about the products she has to offer, and says that's part of what keeps her motivated to do the hard work. "Everything is very fresh. Products that come into our Salem warehouse are quickly distributed. There are no open bins that would allow for product to go stale. All of our food is 100% guaranteed. We roast and salt the nuts and mix most of the snack mixes we carry. We flavor some of them and either Salem or Colorado will cover them in chocolate. The chocolate we use is one of the finest available—no fillers or heavy waxes. The chocolate industry has changed, people expect better quality from us, and we can still say that our chocolate is chocolate."

vegchipsJoanne's favorite goodies? "I love our Cranberry Bonanza (cranberries, peanuts, almonds, cashews, diced pineapple, and yogurt chips), the Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels, and our Strawberry Filled Licorice—very tart! And I always have a bag or two of our nuts open at my house."

What are the best sellers? "Our double-dipped Chocolate Malt Balls are our top seller. All of our beef jerky products sell at the top as well. The jerky we sell is probably the best I've ever had (bar a good homemade jerky). We roast and flavor our nuts in Salem and cover them in many ways. My dark chocolate almonds are a big seller and we've recently added a dark-chocolate-covered cranberry to dark chocolate almonds and call it Dr. Dark. This mix is proving to be a favorite as well. We get high marks from everyone on the quality of our clusters, truffles and chocolate covered nuts.

"People will look and ask for healthy foods. Some will take the healthy snack and some will take what they crave. My customers tend to have a good handle on eating what they want in moderation. They may disappear while dieting, and then purchase items that fit into their diet once they have established their goal. I have a list of products that fit into the new Weight Watchers point system as well as a list of low carbohydrate, low fat and gluten-free items. We really do have a large selection of good healthy and unique snacks."

Joanne's customers look forward to her regular visits

She says the best part of her job is making friends. " I get so much enjoyment from seeing the people on my route—the relationships we have mean so much to me. We share personal stories, laugh and give each other bits of helpful information on a variety of subjects. My customers keep me going some days with their joy and giving."

She is planning to have a table at the Leedy Grange Flea Market starting May 7, and her small ad in the Cedar Mill News should also help people find her. The products are so good that once people have tried them, they're eager to purchase them again and will seek them out.

She and her husband Jeff live in the Terra Linda neighborhood and have been there since they moved from California in 1994. They have a daughter Rachel, now 21 and a junior at the University of Oregon studying human physiology, and a son, Dylan, now 16 and a sophomore at Sunset High. She has been active in both kids' schools and still remains involved by supporting Sunset Baseball, which is one of the reasons she enjoys the flexibility of her MM business.

She is always looking for ways to grow her business and build her routes. "I get most of my new customers by being stopped inside or outside of the office buildings I visit. I do some cold calling and will almost always pick up a customer or two for my efforts."

Joanne has been a member of the Cedar Mill Business Association for several years and finds that the association has been helpful in making new contacts and improving skills for her business. She is in the process of updating her website, Joanne's Gifts and Goodies, ( but is forbidden to list prices or sell anything online under the MM name per contract agreement with MM. But she's happy to get inquiries and orders by phone (503-701-4005) or email (



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Published monthly by Pioneer Marketing & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291