GRANDVILLE, Mich. — Most people are familiar with vending machines. They allow you to purchase things like food and drinks, or even electronics. But there's a new, unique vending machine in the Rivertown Mall called Baby Vend, and it will likely get a lot of use by parents.
“This is a machine that stocks the everyday diaper bag,” said Eric Caldwell, owner of Big E’s Vending. “If you forget your diaper bag, it can be hectic.”
The machine, which is the first of its kind in Michigan, is designed for parents on-the-run. It’s stocked with everything you’d find in a typical diaper bag, plus a few extra items, and it’s conveniently located near the food court in the family lounge.
“We have formula, bottles, playing cards, crayons, coloring books, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, we have all of the above to cater to parents with children like seven and under,” Caldwell said. “I just think this is a perfect area, because this is the nursing lounge, and an area for people to hang out, for the kids to sit down and take a load off of doing all that shopping. I know shopping can be hectic, especially during the holidays, and we don't have too many places outside of the food court to just relax and take a break.”
In addition to everything else, the vending machine is also stocked with children’s snacks, lactation cookies for breastfeeding mothers, and of course disposable diapers.
“The prices vary. It's just the price of convenience,” he said. “Our diapers aren't that much — about five bucks for a pack of two or three, opposed to you being in the mall and not being able to get diapers anywhere.”
The newly installed high-tech machine is one of the first major projects for Caldwell, who said he got in the vending machine business a couple years ago.
“All the machines have card readers, so no cash,” he said. “I have a program that lets me know when my inventory is getting low, and when I need to restock. If the machine goes down and is out of order, it sends me an alert. Then, I will come right away and correct those problems, either refill it or troubleshoot if something is wrong with the machine.”
Caldwell said this is just the beginning of what could be a Baby Vend boom locally. The Anchorage, Alaska-based company will soon have at least two machines setup in West Michigan, all thanks to Caldwell’s efforts. He’s about to install his second Baby Vend in the Woodland Mall, just in time for the holiday shopping season. He’s hoping to also put them inside the airport and the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum.
“I'm a native of Grand Rapids, and I'm proud of my company and the direction we're going,” Caldwell said.
For more on Big E’s Vending, click here.
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