We’ve been family owned since 1977, committing to provide exceptional quality products and innovative supply chain solutions that exceed our customer’s expectations. Our quest for perfection has proudly earned our founder the 1999 Ernst & Young™ Entrepreneur of the Year award for the distribution industry.
Ken Smith founded Southwest Traders on January 5, 1977 in Leucadia, California, as a one-van operation. This included fresh juices, smoothies, alfalfa sprouts, fresh whole grain breads, and bakery items from Ne-Mo™. Southwest Traders grew from two vans to four and Smith purchased the company’s first warehouse – a 1,000 square-feet facility located on Washington Street in Escondido, California. He held the facility until the following year when, due to continued growth, they moved to a larger compound on Enterprise Street.
The “Cool” Choice
Southwest Traders expanded its product line by adding dry and frozen goods in 1983. At the time, however, they were competing with large, established distribution companies in the health food market segment. In 1984, he began budgeting and planning to make the transition from natural food products to frozen yogurt. The transition was complete by 1985 and within months landed Heidi’s Frozen Yogurt, SWT’s first chain account.
Bigger & Better Things
In 1986, Ken Smith purchased land to build a new facility in Temecula, California. By 1990, Southwest Traders had acquired business with several more yogurt chains, making them the leading distributor of soft-serve frozen yogurt in the Southwest United States. In 1992, SWT began deliveries in Arizona and night deliveries were introduced to their emerging chain accounts by 1995.
The 2000’s Expansion
In 2001, SWT started construction on a 70,000 square foot expansion building in Temecula, doubling the size of the facility. In 2006, a previous facility in Sacramento, California, relocated to Stockton to better service the new customer. In 2008, SWT opened up the Fresno distribution center to service a new market for an existing customer.
Change in Leadership
Ken Smith stepped down as acting president in 2016. Terry Walsh was hired as president after a 25-year career at Maine’s Paper and Food Service, the largest family-owned food service distributor at that time. Terry was brought in to grow the business and transition from a Founders Culture to the Second-Generation Culture. Under Terry’s leadership SWT was able to land well recognized national brands and iconic Southern California brands.
The Second Generation
Four of Ken’s sons, Kenny, Brad, Keegan, and Ryan are active in the business. The second-generation hold roles in sales, procurement, finance, and human resources. The brothers are committed to providing the best equipment and technology investments in a new WMS, ELD, and procurement software. The brothers uphold the values that paved the way for SWT’s previous success.
Today, SWT is passionately committed to achieving our vision of delivering world-class supply chain solutions to our most important lifeline – our customers! We are here as a business partner and we would like the opportunity to become your supply chain solution.