Retail Leader of the Year: John MacDougall

CSP honors John MacDougall of Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes as our Retail Leader of the Year for 2013.

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

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But he’s also passionate. He has a zest for life and all things cool. The man rides a Harley, for God’s sake. He carried the Olympic torch through a stretch of New York and paraded Mike Tyson around in his very own tan 1960s Cadillac convertible.
That kind of passion can move mountains, but only if tempered, channeled and cooled by a lifetime of dedication to the community and the people around him. And if anything, MacDougall is mindful, even reverent, to the triumverate who make up his chain’s success: its people, customers and suppliers.

An American Upbringing

MacDougall’s upbringing was surrounded by solid ideals, like the bricks that make up his stores’ walls. Just one generation from his Irish immigrant past, the Catholic-raised and -schooled Cleveland boy was the oldest of four, a son and three sisters, raised in what he describes as an “Ozzie & Harriet” home.
Dad was in the building-materials business, first hands on and then switching to the sales side, demonstrating the work ethic of a generation that built the nation’s growing suburbs. Mom took care of the home and family, always supportive but ready to discipline the children with the feared hairbrush if any of them got out of line.
There would be mentors at school as well, in particular a high school coach who was right out of a Midwest playbook. He was a steadfast guide and sounding board for the brawny young football player that MacDougall was becoming.
But that idyllic life would also have a spiritual base, one that would lead him into the seminary and on the path toward priesthood. The gentle giant would hear that calling but would ultimately step away. (Remember the beer.)
And yet that sense of duty and kinship with community would always be a draw, ultimately leading MacDougall to choose social work, following up on parolees and people of all means and wherewithal. It would shape the man stepping into the idea of selling convenience in America.
In 1966, MacDougall joined Cleveland-based marketing and advertising consultancy Bruthers Co., which took on a client called Stop N Go, a convenience chain based in Trotwood, Ohio. It was a franchise model selling its concept to dairies trying to compete with supermarkets.
MacDougall’s business sensibility, along with so many in the fledgling retail channel, would work through its adolescence in this time frame, taking on the country’s increasingly fast-paced, on-the-go lifestyle. Eventually, the major oils would bring their muscle into the game, converting locations in the late 1970s through the 1980s from auto bays to c-stores and almost overnight proliferating the single-serve, grab-and-go concept exponentially across the country.


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