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Original Juan Team
Joe R. Polo Sr., President / CEO
Joe’s product and food development career began while working for TGI Fridays, developing their menu in the 1980’s. Upon the request of a longtime friend, he left Friday’s to become a managing partner in the Dos Hombres chain of Mexican restaurants in Kansas City. Throughout his many years of customer relations, Joe observed an astonishing number of patrons with a fascination towards hot and spicy foods. In 1992, Joe and his partners opened a small retail store, called Lotta Hotta, bringing in hot and spicy products from throughout the world, and delving into developing and manufacturing products of its own. Many years later, Original Juan was formed, focusing strictly on the manufacturing end of the business.
Joe’s management style is very simple; he’s the first to dive in to a job, full throttle, and it is up to the rest of the staff to keep up. His intensity and passion for Original Juan come from a belief in setting the bar above our competitors. His quest to hold Original Juan in front of the pack keeps the company in constant evolution. His uncanny ability to develop successful products in a saturated market makes him a leader in the industry. He is a man who puts everything into what he does. His whole-hearted optimism, unbridled enthusiasm and big heart make him a person that every staff member on the Original Juan staff respects and admires. He is the heartbeat of Original Juan.
Joe strives to pass along the invaluable knowledge he gained through his business experiences to other budding entrepreneurs. He has a passion for reading and improving his leadership skills. Ultimately, Joe desires to enhance the lives of his family, friends, business associates, and team members while simultaneously adding some joy and sizzle to the lives of those who enjoy Juan’s products.
Ruth Becker, Bookkeeper
Ruth’s “hawk-eye” accounting skills keep Original Juan’s numbers crunched to perfection. Having over 15 years experience in bookkeeping with Original Juan, Ruth is known for her quick wit, warm smile and attention to detail. She is Original Juan’s ultimate “little detail” person. Ruth saves Original Juan thousands of dollars by her amazing memory and determination to review every invoice the company receives. Her upbeat attitude, kind heart and compassionate spirit make her a loyal and treasured friend to the staff. Ruth handles royalty payments, incoming raw good invoices, bank reconciliations and gift shop sales.
She started her career as a sales clerk with Dillards, working her way into an area sales manager in less than two years. She has worked as a bookkeeper for other food manufacturing plants before finding doing bookkeeping but found a home within the Original Juan family.
Tom Clark, Vice President of Operations
Tom is the central hub of Original Juan’s operations. He is the company’s troubleshooting expert, working with each department to deal with any maintenance, manufacturing, technical or scheduling issues. His mechanical instincts and technical knowledge play a critical role in the company’s day-to-day operations. His quiet calm and methodical problem solving skills make him a natural leader in any emergency. He is essentially the one staff member that can fix just about anything in the building. He is quick to learn and has an amazing capacity to shoulder the stress and strain of the daily operations of Original Juan with ease. His friendship of almost 20 years with the owner of Original Juan creates a level of respect and cooperation that keeps the business running smoothly.
Tom has been a loyal, dedicated employee of Original Juan for over 18 years. Prior to working with Original Juan, Tom worked as a software tester and as a steel worker. His first job was with the owner of Original Juan, working 4 years as manager of Calido Chile Traders. He did many of the same tasks as he does today, handling logistics, forecasting, and general management of the business. When not at Original Juan, Tom enjoys spending time with his four children and coaching his son’s baseball team.
Greg Dennis, Vice President of Sales
Greg’s warm personality and dedication to impeccable customer service has made him the most successful salesperson in Original Juan’s history. His steadfast determination to build Original Juan as a global brand has increased the company’s sales and credibility throughout the world. The company was lucky enough to snag their star salesperson in 2007. His creative palate and comprehensive understanding of trends in the sauce market has earned him a key role on the product development team. He has a knack for building successful brands for Original Juan as well as co-pack and private label customers.
Greg has a B.S. in Biology from Colorado State University. He also has an M.B.A. from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In his previous position, Greg held roles as Vice President of Operations and Vice President of Sales & Marketing during his 10 years at a nationwide hospitality services company. His extensive customer service experience has been a valuable tool in building the success of Original Juan. His business savvy and product knowledge give Greg a vital role in the future of the company’s success.
Jason Erickson, Purchasing Manager
Jason is Original Juan’s “diamond in the rough.” He can be a little loud and his music takes some patience, but he is the life of Original Juan’s daily party. His depth of knowledge and meticulous purchasing ability make him a priceless asset to the Original Juan team. His brilliant memory, quick humor and fun-loving spirit make Jason a valued co-worker and an encyclopedia of knowledge. He manages a massive amount of duties including all materials purchasing, co-pack sales, batching schedules, raw good and packaging inventory, label inventory and outgoing freight issues. Jason’s quick thinking and local supplier connections have helped Original Juan out of many stressful situations.
Jason has worked with a variety of food related businesses throughout his career. He spent the first 3.5 years of his career with IBP in meat processing. He then worked as a production operator for a manufacturing facility for 4 years. His last two positions before coming to Original Juan were as a machinist for 3 years and as a purchasing agent for a label dispensing manufacturer for 6 years. Jason has an associate’s degree from ITT Tech in Computer Administration. His loyalty, dedication and kind nature make him a vital piece of the Original Juan puzzle.
Stephanie Hoopes, Customer Service
Stephanie’s take charge personality, problem solving skills and impeccable memory have made her an invaluable member of the Original Juan team since July 2007. Stephanie is the most requested and valued staff member for our retail and wholesale customers. She is the ultimate problem solver, working with each staff member to accomplish tasks in a quick and accurate manner. Stephanie handles customer service, internet orders, order processing, shipping and general administrative duties. She thrives in stressful situations, juggling many duties while using sarcasm and a sharp wit to keep the Original Juan staff laughing.
Stephanie grew up in the food industry working in her mother’s restaurant. She has had a long history in accounting, office management and customer service working in multiple national hotel chains and the Kansas City Zoo.
Kit Maxfield, Product and New Business Development Manager
Kit’s career in product development started at the age of 12 when he got his first job in a restaurant. His passion for cooking turned into an 11 year career in foodservice. He has worked in some of the most popular restaurants in the metro including Stroud’s, Harry’s Downtown in Manhattan, Yia Yia’s, Cactus Grill and Jose Peppers. Throughout his career, Kit held almost every position within a restaurant. During that time, he studied the art of flavor profiles and what people enjoyed eating. That knowledge provided the platform for him to help run the test kitchen at Original Juan.
Kit is a Kansas State University graduate with a B.S. in Biology. He uses his extensive food knowledge and love of cooking to help potential co-packers understand the manufacturing process. His responsibilities include nutritional information submissions, product development, quality control, and business development for our co-pack/private label customers.
Kyle Meyers, Shipping/Receiving Manager
Kyle’s take-charge attitude and extensive sales and management experience make him a natural leader of Original Juan’s shipping and receiving department. Kyle joined the company in May of 2009. He started in batching and moved his way up to shipping/receiving manager within six months. Kyle’s pointed humor and quick comebacks keep Original Juan staff on their toes. His loyalty, pride and dedication to his job make Kyle an essential employee that Original staff has come to depend on.
Prior to working for Original Juan, Kyle was an account executive for 26 years for a food packaging company. His drive and focus, along with his past experience in management, make him the perfect person to direct the bustling activity of the warehouse. Kyle handles all web fulfillment orders, inventory control, shipping and receiving.
Valerie Lewellen, Vice President of Manufacturing
Valerie is the heart of manufacturing. With more than 21 years experience making Original Juan’s products, she controls every artery that flows in and out of our manufacturing facility. Her product knowledge, sensitive palate and manufacturing expertise are key ingredients for Original Juan’s success. She has built a family of staff that look up to her leadership, hard work and uncompromising standard of quality. She manufactures millions of dollars worth of product every year with the unique knowledge she has gained through her determination to be the best in the industry.
Valerie started her career in nursing. She had a friend in the manufacturing business and decided to change careers as a new challenge. She started her relationship with Original Juan by manufacturing their products through another company in 1989. That company later merged with Original Juan and she has been with them ever since.
Christine Polo, Office Manager
Christine’s enthusiasm and dedication to the success of Original Juan is evident by her 12 years of service to the company. She juggles a variety of responsibilities including payroll, human resources and handling customer service issues. Christine also has a gifted flare for writing promotional materials for the company and creating specialty gift baskets for customers. Her grace, style and exquisite decorating abilities can be seen throughout the Original Juan building. Here flare for purchasing Southwest decor can be viewed in our gift shop as she handles all of the purchasing for the store.
Christine has spent her entire career in foodservice. She also spends a great deal of her time taking care of others, especially her family including two beautiful daughters. Christine’s eye for detail and compassion for others make her a vital member of the Original Juan staff.
Ali Shirazi, Chef and Product Development, Quality Control Manager for Test Kitchen
Ali’s compassion, kindness and culinary expertise make him a favorite among customers and Original Juan staff. His spur-of-the-moment meals for hungry employees are not only appreciated but add a special touch of family to the hustling Original Juan building. Ali has spent a lifetime dedicated to innovative tastes and delicate cuisine. He challenges Original Juan to develop unique products that continually increase our reputation as standout in the food industry. He captures the perfect blend of enthusiasm and creativity, making our test kitchen feel less like a manufacturing plant and more like a home.
Ali learned to cook by helping his mother shop at markets in his homeland of Tehran and prepare the family’s dinners. He has worked with many famous chefs around the world throughout his career and trained at Le Cordon Blue in England. Ali is a celebrated chef in the Kansas City metro. He owned and operated multiple restaurants prior to working for Original Juan; Shirazi for 14 years and Westside Café for 13 years. His big heart and compassionate spirit make Ali a cherished friend to the staff and a valuable resource for Original Juan’s customers.
Dee Wasson, Accounts Payable/Receivable
Dee’s 40 years of accounting experience make her a priceless asset to the Original Juan team. Her dedication to the bottom line, inquisitive nature and warm personality keep the accounting department running smooth. She has been with the company since July 2008 managing accounts receivable, payable and cash management. Dee’s quirky catch phrases and quick humor keep the staff smiling.
Dee initially came here on a tour of the facility and thought to herself that this would be a great place to work. Little did she know that when she applied for an anonymous ad for an accounting executive she would end up at Original Juan’s offices a year later. Dee worked within the accounting industry for the majority of her career but also enjoys selling real estate.-->
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