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Duskiewicz Leaves Bit of Himself in Nice N Easy


CANASTOTA, N.Y. — Thirty years is a long time to call someplace home. But when you love what you do and the people you do it with, it does not seem that long at all.

Thirty years is how long Fran Duskiewicz has called Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes home. He joined the upstate New York convenience store chain after being laid off from a teacher's position, an eight-year career that saw him mold seventh- and eighth-grade minds in the subject of English.

As the calendar turned to 2015, though, Duskiewicz announced his retirement from Nice N Easy, where he has been serving as CEO since July. His last official day will be Jan. 11.

His retirement comes after "a rough year" and a time of transition at the company. In late June, founder and CEO John MacDougall — a longtime friend and colleague — passed away. Three months later, Nice N Easy was sold to San Antonio-based CST Brands Inc.

"I turned 62 a couple of weeks back and after everything that has gone on this year, and the fact that the company has leadership now and is going in a different direction, I've done my duty and now is the perfect time for me to step back and take some time," Duskiewicz told CSNews Online.

During his three decades with Nice N Easy, he has worn many hats. He joined the retail chain at a time when MacDougall was creating a training program for Nice N Easy franchises. The program took aim at all levels, including new employees and managers. Given his background with his family's business, Duskiewicz saw the opportunity as perfect.

He ran a store for a year before assuming responsibilities in the training program because, as he recalled, MacDougall wasn't going to let him train anyone until he went out and did the job himself. 

From there, he went on to be the "training guy, the district manager guy, the advertising guy," he said. "There weren't that many of us in the early days. John and I would talk about what we needed to do, what type of position we needed to have and then pretty much I would do it. I would figure out how it should be done. Eventually, we would hire someone to take those responsibilities away from me."

Most positions in the company, except for fixing things and maintenance, Duskiewicz did at one time.

"With my personality, I like to get things perfect. I like to get things to where they are perfectly running right," he explained. "I would get things to that point, then [MacDougall] would make a left-hand turn. We would be off doing something new and I would have to figure out how to get that done. That is the way we worked together and it was successful."

Memory Lane

Looking back over 30 years, Duskiewicz said there are almost too many memories to pick just one favorite. "The truth is, I looked forward to getting up every day, going in and doing whatever we were doing," he said. "I always looked forward to seeing John. It seems like all we did was make good memories over 30 years."

He did point out that one of his favorite memories came just a few years ago with the fall 2011 opening of a 6,750-square-foot Nice N Easy store in Brewerton, N.Y. The mini-grocery store was not only the largest at the time for the chain, but it also served as a prototype for future stores in select markets.

The store was something MacDougall had wanted to build for 30 years, but the timing was never right, according to Duskiewicz.

"Finally the opportunity came to build this store he always had in his mind. To be around him when he opened the door and had people come in and look around; just watching him watch them — that was fun," he recounted. "...You could tell he was so proud."

A Rough Year

According to Duskiewicz, MacDougall had been ill and the last year was "topsy turvy." People who knew the both of them were generally worried about Duskiewicz.

"He was like a father, he was like a big brother. He was a best friend and a great boss. You put all those things together, you lose any one of those people in your life [and] you're going to have a problem. To lose somebody who has been all those things is just emotionally wrecking," he acknowledged.

And he is not alone in those feelings. People who didn't know MacDougall as long as he did feel the same way, Duskiewicz added.

New Beginnings

His decision to step away from Nice N Easy is not a reflection on CST Brands or the recent acquisition, Duskiewicz stressed to CSNews Online. CST is giving Nice N Easy the opportunity that MacDougall always wanted: to grow.

"I think CST is a really good company. If I was 20 years younger, I would be jumping at this opportunity with both feet, to get out there and help them with the growth plans they have," he said. "I'm 62 and after the year I've been through, I don't have quite the energy."

For now, Duskiewicz is going to take some time to enjoy the luxury of doing nothing for a while — something he hasn't done in 30 years.

"It's been 24/7 for 30 years," he said. "I'm looking forward to being a relaxed guy for a while."

Even when he leaves Nice N Easy, his influence will remain. "People talk about the fact that there is so much of John MacDougall in the company and I think over 30 years, I can honestly look at what we have and realize there is a lot of me in it, too," he said.

"It might not be as upfront and noticeable as the stores and the things John designed. I think the way we have done things and the way we've operated, there is a lot of me in that particular area of our culture," he continued. "I'm proud of that."

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