John R. Martin

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John R. Martin

Marin Bros.

Laureate 2018

John Martin’s business acumen and employee-friendly policies led to significant expansion of Martin Bros. Distributing Co. Inc. after he joined the business in 1960.

Martin Bros. Distributing Co. Inc. was already one of the most well-recognized entrepreneurial successes of the Cedar Valley. John’s father, Roy, launched the food service distributing company in 1940 from his parents’ garage, and Roy’s brother, Glen, joined the business after returning from World War II. John grew up in Martin Bros. Distributing where he fondly remembers operating a lemonade stand and visiting salesmen would have to pass to get to his dad’s office.

After joining the family business, with a business degree from the University of Northern Iowa in hand, John became an integral part of Martin Bros. Distributing. He connected with industry leaders to foster improvements and best practices. He invested in technology and new lines of distribution, adding a line of frozen food products, and purchased a fruit and produce company. His efforts helped grow the company from about 40 employees to more than 600 today.

Employees have always been an important priority to John. As such, he created the Martin Bros. Distributing Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), which distributes 49 percent of profits to employees. Over the years, he has thoroughly enjoyed watching employees grow as professionals.

“I tried to create a workplace where entrepreneurs could thrive,” John said, “a workplace that was one big team where you and your opinions mattered and made a difference.” Diane Chandler, of Martin Bros. Distributing, noted that “John was not afraid to take risks with the company. He surrounded himself with a wide variety of good people and let them lead.”

Martin Bros. Distributing has become so well known for its forward thinking that national corporations are coming to Cedar Falls to see how Martin Bros. Distributing operates and what they can learn from their success. Martin Bros. Distributing is the Midwest’s leading food service provider, and John Martin’s legacy is embedded within the business and the community.

In addition to work, John has received many distinctions and has served on numerous professional and community boards, including the IFDA Hall of Fame, Cornerstone Award Winner, Institutional Food Distributors of America, Optimist Club, and Western Home Communities, and was a member of a think tank group which met at the White House for President George W. Bush during a spike in fuel prices.

John has enjoyed a lifelong love of athletics and was a two-sport athlete at UNI in basketball and track. His passion for sports has also benefited the Cedar Valley. He served as a volunteer assistant coach for the Cedar Falls High School men’s basketball team for 17 years and also founded the Martin Brothers Select AAU basketball team, which has allowed many young local athletes to showcase their talent and, in many cases, capitalize on scholarship opportunities.

In addition to serving youth in the community, he has supported state-of-the-art services for aging people in the area. John was a founding member of Martin Health Services, which is a long-term care pharmacy, and Martin Bros. has sponsored experts to educate caregivers and families on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

John is married to his wife Claudia and has four children and twelve grandchildren.

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