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Cash-Wa Distributing impacts businesses for 80 years with reliable service

The Henning FamilyYou’re getting the kids ready for school, and there’s no time to make lunch—they can eat at school. You're meeting a friend for lunch at a local restaurant and order a cheeseburger. While filling your car with gas, you pick up a pop and bag of chips. Visiting your grandmother in the nursing home, she‘s just finished eating supper.

If you have eaten anything outside of your home, chances are Cash-Wa Distributing is responsible for some, if not all, of the food products you’ve consumed throughout your day.

Cash-Wa Distributing’s Kearney, Neb. warehouse has an inventory of over 26,000 different items in their 300,000-square-foot, multi-building facility.

Cash-Wa has been paramount to the success of numerous businesses across Central Nebraska, by supplying essential foodservice items in a timely and reliable fashion. From paper cups and plates, cleaning supplies and industrial dishwashers, to candy bars, quality meat products and fresh produce, Cash-Wa provides over 11 states with both foodservice and convenience distribution goods, which makes the company unique. The majority of broadline foodservice distributors in the U.S. provide to either foodservice establishments—restaurants, hospitals, schools—or to convenience stores.

Cash-Wa Candy Company began in 1934. The company originally delivered candy and tobacco to neighborhood grocery stores in Kearney. Today, Cash-Wa Distributing delivers to a vast territory.

“We really grew up selling to small grocery stores,” said Tom Henning, CEO. “During the course of the next 30 to 40 years, we really grew and spread our wings.”

The food business has evolved over the years, and Cash-Wa has evolved alongside it. In 1970, 25.9 percent of all food spending was on away-from-home purchases, according the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Resource Service. By 2012, that mark reached its all-time high; 43.1 percent of all food spending was on eating outside of the home.

Customers can come in off the street to Cash-Wa's shop “It’s been a fascinating business,” said Henning.

As the popularity of eating outside of the home increased, so did Cash-Wa’s product lines and services. In the 1970s, Henning said the company offered between 150 and 200 product lines. Today, the company boasts around 26,000 different product lines.

As technological advances change the industry, Cash-Wa is prepared to change with it. Their state-of-the-art facilities in Kearney and Aberdeen, S.D. have more than 400,000 combined square feet of climate controlled, frozen and refrigerated warehousing. Kearney alone has 16 docking stations that completely seal against the trailers, ensuring optimum cold-store food safety.

The services customers receive from Cash-Wa don’t stop at delivery. Menu planning is also available. Their nutritional analysis system is available for every customer. Restaurants or hospitals can tally the recommended daily allowances in each item they serve or sell, adjust serving sizes and recipe sizes for large batch cooking. Cash-wa has registered dietitians on staff whose assistance can be used for consultations.

Customers can order directly through Cash-Wa’s online portal, tracking their inventory and spending. Cash-Wa’s clients can use these value added services.


Henning said everything ordered from Cash-Wa is delivered the next day, using the most up-to-date picking system in their warehouses. Trucks are loaded as efficiently as possible.

The average rate of turnover is 14 to 15 days. Turning product that quickly requires a finely-tuned machine. That’s where Cash-Wa’s employees play an integral role.

“Business has emerged and evolved into a machine that has many moving parts,” Henning said.

Cash-Wa employs 535 people and has a fleet of 160 trucks. Today it includes registered dietitians, restaurant consultants, delivery personnel, graphic designers and warehousing. Henning recalls a conversation at a seminar regarding the relationships built in business.

“You have employees, customers and vendors. They’re all important, but not all of them will be important unless your employees are important because they build the relationships,” Henning said. “It’s the relationships that help you build your business.”

He referred to the departments at Cash-Wa as teams. Everyone supports one another, creating an encouraging environment. From management to the drivers, servant leadership is present throughout Cash-Wa’s business structure.

Citing Cash-Wa as a flat organization, Henning said, “It’s not steep and it’s not deep. There aren’t a lot of layers and empowerment is something that really brings the best out of the people.”

Employees tend to stick around as well. Henning said the average length of employment is about eight years. Loyalty is not an issue and it starts at the top.

“There isn’t one person in management who doesn’t have an open-door policy,” said Director of Marketing Michelle Harter.

Optimized service doesn’t stop after the truck drops off an order. Cash-Wa offers added service to enhance their approximately 9,000 clients.

Commercially, they provide food product to convenience stores and restaurants—anywhere one may dine-out. Non-commercially, they work with schools, nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living centers, daycares, correctional facilities and college food services.

Cash-Wa’s reach has evolved over the years, as have the number of clients, employees and SKU’s.

Henning’s motivational force is paralleled by the growth of the business over the years. “Any organism that isn’t growing is dying,” he said. “I think growth is something that is desirable for everyone, whether it’s home, work, church, or play.”

Construction of Current WareshouseCurrent WarehouseDay Crew at Current WarehouseOld Delivery Truck
Old WarehouseGround breaking of our current dry warehouseCurrent Fleet of Trucks

About the Author

Open for Business, Central Nebraska

The Open for Business Staff strives to create the most useful content possible for businesses. Whether it's tips and tools available for owners to work smarter, not harder, a feature story highlighting amazing things happening with a Central Nebraska business or a fun tip here and there, you will find something that helps your business thrive at 

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