30 in Their Thirties: Aaron Broglin // 38

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President | Broglin Distribution, Dearborn Heights | Illuminator Logistics Group, Farmington Hills | Employees: 8/6 |

Revenue: $1.5M/$1.3M | Wayne State University

Vacationing in northern Michigan, Aaron Broglin noticed several small, gourmet food companies and had a big idea. If people bought from these businesses while they were Up North, why wouldn’t they buy the same products when they were back home?

“So I started contacting these little companies, and to my shock, they were all like, ‘Yeah, we’d be interested in talking,’ ” he recalls.

In 2001, Broglin scraped together $500, prepared a stack of sell sheets, and filled a cardboard box with samples. His first customers were R. Hirt Jr. Co. in Detroit and Westborn Market (Berkley, Dearborn, Livonia).

“This was long before the ‘Buy Michigan’ thing was sexy,” he says, adding that Broglin Distribution has grown so much, it may be the largest distributor of Michigan-made gourmet and specialty products. “We have a gigantic assortment of everything Michigan, from soft goods to hard goods to cleaning products and detergents.”

Broglin has a diverse mix of retailers: 40 percent are high-end groceries, another 40 percent are mid-level grocery stores, and the remaining 20 percent are made up of meat markets, gift shops, boutiques, and specialty retailers.

When Broglin acquired a warehouse for his company in 2007, the building had excess capacity, so he started Illuminator Logistics Group, a third-party logistics company for client companies. “We do warehousing, trucking, local delivery services, and packaging,” Broglin says of Illuminator.

Broglin is also a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve, and a partner in Hot Rod Bob’s Specialty Foods in Shelby Township.

“The work we do is not cool by today’s definition,” Broglin says. “We’re not a bunch of guys with beards and cut-up T-shirts writing code and coming up with the world’s next great technological invention. We’re companies operating in an old-fashioned industry. We just do it better.” 

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