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Executive Q&A: Family's food equipment business grows with Oklahoma City

Cary Amundsen enjoys ushering his family's 74-year-old food service company into the 21st century.
by Paula Burkes Modified: June 23, 2013 at 11:39 pm •  Published: June 23, 2013
/articleid/3855161/1/pictures/2139214">Photo - Cary Amundsen inside  his business, Amundsen Food Equipment Co on Main Street , east of Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, June 18, 2013.   For Executive Q & A. Photo  by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman.
Cary Amundsen inside his business, Amundsen Food Equipment Co on Main Street , east of Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, June 18, 2013. For Executive Q & A. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman.

Q: How about your childhood? Where'd you grow up and go to school?

A: We lived in Quail Creek, where my mother was a stay-at-home mom to me and my two sisters, one three years older and one three years younger. I attended Heritage Hall, graduating in '82 in a class of 73. Aside from history and English, which I liked, I was a mediocre student. Outside of class, I was in Student Council and played offensive lineman on the football team. Because we were a small school, I — at 6-foot-2-inches, 180 pounds — was one of the biggest guys on the team. I later grew to 6-foot-3.

Q: Did you grow up working here, and did you always know you'd join the family business?

A: From sixth grade on, I worked here in the summers — cleaning equipment or assisting with deliveries. But in the summers of my freshmen and sophomore years, I made curly Q fries for Kennedy's Restaurant (formerly Across the Street). In the summers of '80 and '81, I worked for Trigg Drilling as a welding assistant, helping to build rigs. You talk about absolutely hard work. We'd work nine hour days, six days a week. I made $8 an hour and thought I was rich.

I wasn't sure about joining the business. I started out in psychology, switched to journalism and finally moved to business.

My first three years of college, I followed my older sister to Arizona State — attracted by the winter temperatures. But I finished at OU. I had a girlfriend here, plus — after spending several summers working for the company — I had developed my own client list.

Q: Your wife, Sheila, heads accounting for Amundsen Food Equipment, and the two of you met here. What's it like working together?

A: It's fun and good to both be focused on the same thing — running a good business and working with good people. We go to lunch together about three times a week, and get caught up on a lot of stuff. We talk a little business. We talk a little fun, and, a lot of the time, about kids: the good (mostly) and bad of having three daughters.

Q: Of what are you most proud, business-wise?

A: Finding, training, developing and keeping real talented people. I hired two or three people 20 years ago who still work here today. In fact, of our 24 full-time employees, four have 20 or more years' service and eight have 15 plus years.

We also really enjoy working with small restaurants, like S&B Burgers, Big Truck Tacos and Good Egg Group, and helping them grow.

by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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Position: president, Amundsen Food Equipment

Birth date: February 1964

Family: Sheila Amundsen, married 13 years; daughters Cassidy Rice, 23; Olivia Amundsen, 22, and Grace Amundsen, 18

Residence: west Nichols Hills, where they built two years ago

Education: University of Oklahoma, bachelor's in business

Church home: Crossings Community Church

Pastimes: semiweekly spin classes with Sheila, golf, wake boarding (they have property on Lake Tenkiller), snow skiing and sports (he's a season-ticket holder to OU football and the Thunder)


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