Food Frontiersman

CSP's Retail Leader event shines light on MacDougall as foodservice pioneer

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

John MacDougall CSP Retail Leader of the Year

John MacDougall

ATLANTA -- Surrounded by more than 250 friends, family, colleagues, suppliers and industry leaders, John MacDougall jubilantly held aloft his award as CSP's 2013 Retail Leader of the Year, graciously accepting the honor for his personal accomplishments and on behalf of his team at Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes.

With streaming photos of his childhood and years spent building his Canastota, N.Y.-based chain playing as guests in suits and gowns dined, the event featured a short presentation by his three daughters and son, with the evening building to an onscreen epiphany for MacDougall, who choking back emotion described his legacy as one of simply being "nice."

But building a business on "nice" is an oversimplification, as the evening's tribute video revealed. MacDougall and his team faced a litany of challenges, the foremost being taxation issues and the Native American competition that hit core categories in the 1990s.

Faced with his competitors' ability to undercut his company on retail gas and cigarette prices, the chain dove heavily into foodservice, hiring new food-centric staff, building out its made-on-site offers and just a couple of years ago, hiring three professional chefs to help develop grab-and-go meals. The chain's newest location offers fresh meat, fruit and produce in a 7,000 square-foot store, mimicking what MacDougall would describe as the mom-and-pop "superette" that had disappeared from his area.

The annual event was held at Ritz-Carlton Atlanta in tandem with the NACS Show, and drew many well-known industry veterans including last year's Retail Leader recipient, Don Zietlow of Kwik Trip, La Crosse, Wis.; Sam Susser and Steven DeSutter of Susser Holdings, Corpus Christi, Texas; Carl Bolch of RaceTrac Petroleum, Atlanta; Bill Douglass of Douglass Distributing, Sherman, Texas; Gus Olympidis of Family Express, Valparaiso, Ind.; and Dean Durling of QuickChek, Whitehouse Station, N.J.

"I've known John for a long time, and he's not afraid to try new things, as with foodservice," Zietlow said. "He's great with people. He's gentle and kind."

"We are proud of him," said Alex Olympidis with Family Express and Gus Olympidis' son. "We enjoy similarities in our cultures. He built a company with [a strong, upbeat] culture."

David Williamson, a personal friend and industry colleague for more than 25 years, expressed his gratitude at being able to attend the event and called MacDougall "the most wonderful business partner anyone could have."

Indeed, MacDougall took a moment while accepting his award to acknowledge his supplier partners, calling them an important part of a triangle of stakeholders, inclusive of chain employees and Nice N Easy customers.

MacDougall opened the first Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes site in 1980, with the chain now operating more than 85 stores in the upstate New York market.

Now in its 11th year, CSP's Retail Leader of the Year dinner and toast honors a convenience-retailing executive for leadership excellence, innovation within the chain and perseverance within his or her company, positively transforming the organization to new and higher levels.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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