My father [[Martindale-731|Rick Martindale]] and grandfather, [[Martindale-733|William Martindale]] started their business in the late 1960s, early 1970s when my father returned from Vietnam.
They invented and patented the first hydraulic mechanical post-mix soda bar gun dispenser. [https://www.wunderbar.com
]. The company is called Automatic Bar Controls, Inc. aka Wunder Bar. If you have ever been into most bars or restaurants with bars and watched the bartender pick up what is known as a "bar gun" and dispense your soda from it into your glass......95% of the time, that is a Wunder Bar soda gun that was invented by my father and grandfather.
They started their business in Northern California (where we still live) from the ground up. First they began in Alameda County, California and in 1983 moved their business up to Vacaville, California right outside of Sacramento and about 40 minutes from San Francisco. We were located in the business park and had a large building where we actually manufactured everything right there and would ship all across the world to our distributors.
For almost 45 years, they cornered the market because they did patent everything about the design of that bar gun. Our biggest customer (no surprise) was Coca-Cola North America based in Atlanta, Georgia. Within the last two decades, the Corporate offices of Pepsi came to Wunder Bar to have us design new dispensers for them as well. We also manufactured other beverage and food dispensing equipment as well and expanded into that in the 1990s.
My grandfather passed away in 2009 and then my father, Rick whom is almost 70 now just sold his portion of the business and has since retired. At just 15 years old, I was working in my dad's office and 20 years later, I knew that business backwards and forwards. I was very sad to say goodbye to a place where the employees were like my family. My father found it difficult to let people go. Most of the 150 employees were there for decades, since I was a kid. And hardly any of them are left working there now. Many left after my father did. Some were fired by the corporate entity that now owns it.
Since 2013, Wunder Bar was bought out by a huge corporate company that started out manufacturing professional grade ovens for restaurants in the early 20th century. It is now a publicly traded company, along with several dozen other companies that are owned by the same company that bought Wunder Bar.
Today, the patents have since run their course. So, as you can imagine there are other start ups out there that have copied the design and are selling them out in the market.
But, I have fond memories of growing up helping my father with his business. It was hard to see it all go because that was my every day life for so long. I can only imagine how my dad feels at times.