'The Soul of Nice N Easy'
Industry leaders, co-workers pay tribute to John MacDougall
CANASTOTA, N.Y. -- Fun. Fearless. Genuine. And, of course, nice.
Is there any CEO in our industry aside from Nice N Easy's John MacDougall who could be described in all those ways?
MacDougall, who passed away Saturday after a long illness, is remembered for a business he built from the ground up, and for a chain that embraced foodservice long before many others in our industry did. But he's most fondly recalled for his generous, larger-than-life personality and spirit, which was on full display at CSP's Retail Leader of the Year Dinner and Toast last October (watch the video below). He was also honored as the cover feature for the Dec. 2013 issue of CSP magazine.
"He had fun. I don't know if I knew anyone who truly loved life the way he did," said Fran Duskiewicz, Nice N Easy's senior executive vice president. "I don't think he regretted anything he did. He had a great time--and anyone who was around him had a great time.
"He was the soul of Nice N Easy," Duskiewicz continued. "He had the flattest organization chart you ever saw. Everyone in this company had a special relationship with him."
That special relationship extended to customers and people who saw MacDougall on commercials or throwing out the first pitch at a triple-A baseball game. "We couldn't go anywhere without people coming up to him," Duskiewicz said. "They loved his commercials, and they loved him. They wanted to hug him."
MacDougall founded Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes in 1980, at a time when he said he "didn't have two nickels to rub together." In what he considered an unbelievable opportunity, he was offered a 50% stake and the opportunity to run Canastota, N.Y.-based Clark Petroleum. And so began the chain that would become Nice N Easy.
"From my earliest years in c-stores, John was always the happy, big-handed guy to give me a great big handshake and resounding 'Great to see you' at so many meetings and events," said Scott Hartman, president and CEO of Rutter's Farm Stores, York, Pa. "The industry has lost a true leader, as well as a genuinely nice person."
MacDougall knew understanding his customer and differentiating the offer were critical to his stores' success. Early on, he adopted a pantry-style model for the sites--hence "Grocery Shoppes"--including an extended grocery line and limited foodservice.