By GREGORY ZELLER //
A Long Island vending machine company with an innovative hook and a multimillion-dollar pedigree has expanded its dealings with a thriving multistate customer – and deployed its next-gen retail tech across one of the Island’s busiest campuses.
Bethpage-based Vengo Labs LLC announced Thursday an “expanded partnership” with New York City-based Blink Holdings Inc., a 2010 startup dba Blink Fitness, with more than 90 health-and-fitness clubs open or in development in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California.
According to the new deal, the NYC company, which first introduced Vengo vending machines at its NYC locations in 2017, will install Vengo machines in 50 additional Blink Fitness locker rooms – including all new and in-development locations – “based on positive feedback from the gyms and [their] members,” according to Vengo Labs.
Less about candy and cola than soap and phone chargers, the sleek, wall-mounted vending machines pack patented product-delivery cartridges, a 21 1/2-inch high-def touchscreen and other next-level technologies designed specifically to vend need-them-now gadgets and must-have hygiene for on-the-go customers.
A supply of earbuds, smartphone batteries, locker locks and personal products (deodorant, gel, etc.) make the automatic vendors ideal for locker rooms and hotel lobbies. The machines also encourage – in fact, demand – 21st century recompense, eschewing cash for credit and debit cards, NFC/mobile payments (for “near field communication,” such as paying with your phone) and campus-issued payment cards, like cashless-transaction Blackboard cards.
At Stony Brook University, the machines will accept Wolfie Wallet payments – and students will have plenty of opportunities to give Vengo a whirl, with the company announcing in March a new agreement that places nine vending machines around the Stony Brook campus.
The university actually received the machines through a contract with North Carolina-based Canteen Vending Services, Vengo Labs’ vending partner, which networks more than 200 corporate and franchise locations through operations in 48 states, including offices in Amityville and Commack.
However the machines actually found their way to the campus, SBU joins Blink Fitness as two more great gets for Vengo Labs, a 2011 startup that was conceived on Long Island and launched in Long Island City, but relocated in 2017 to cofounder Steve Bofill’s hometown of Bethpage.
It was in Bofill’s Bethpage basement that he, cofounder Brian Shimmerlik and Brian Bofill, Steven’s father and a former Northrop Grumman systems engineer, designed and prototyped the Vengo, which went on to earn a $2 million 2016 payday on ABC Network’s “Shark Tank,” with hosts Kevin O’Leary and Lori Greiner buying in (the meteoric product has also benefitted early on from high-profile partnerships with Hershey Co., Revlon and Hyatt Hotels Corp).
Flash forward just two short years and Vengo, according to a running count on the company’s website, has driven more than 160,000 point-of-sale retail transactions. The innovation behind that surge was a perfect fit for Blink Fitness, which doesn’t always have room for a built-in retail shop but is “always looking for ways to add valuable amenities to our member experience,” according to Vice President of Operations David Collignon.
“With Vengo, we are able to give our members access to the products they need, without having to take space away from the gym experience,” Collignon said in a statement.
Blink Fitness has proven to be a “great brand and partner,” according to Shimmerlik, the Vengo Labs CEO, who expressed appreciation for a collaborator that’s “always thinking of its members first, with an innovative retail experience.”
“We know that gym-goers appreciate having the opportunity to access the products they need,” Shimmerlik said Thursday. “In a survey via the Vengo screens, 94 percent of gym members stated that Vengo makes their gym experience more convenient.”