Saluting Family Businesses

I just got back from the National Advisory Group’s (NAG) 2010 Ideas Conference in Charleston, S.C., and came away with a much better understanding of the issues facing small businesses and family-owned companies. Whether it’s dealing with the massive overhaul of the U.S. medical system, costly PCI compliance investments that yield no ROI or embracing social media programs to connect with today’s younger convenience customers, small business owners are facing difficult decisions at a time when money remains tight.

NAG, through the collective efforts of the two dozen retailers in attendance, addressed these issues for convenience store owners while providing a close, intimate atmosphere conducive to identifying real solutions. Aside from the networking and educational sessions, operators were afforded the opportunity to bond and share ideas during lengthy information exchange sessions, which are the essence of NAG—an association driven by retailers, for retailers.

What impressed me most about NAG was how committed storeowners are, not only to growing their own businesses, but to elevating the profile of the entire industry. “When chains do well, the industry benefits, and that’s in everyone’s best interest,” John MacDougall, president and CEO of Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes told me. “It’s a difficult market right now, so companies are looking for answers that will help them operate more efficiently and cut costs throughout the organization. The great thing about NAG is that historically it’s been an event where people can come to get answers.”

As always, MacDougall eloquently summed up the goal of NAG. Congratulations to David Johnson, vice president of operations for Toot’n Totum in Amarillo, Texas, who was named NAG’s incoming chairman.

Pride Runs Deep
Like many of the NAG retail members, Tedeschi Food Shops, the subject of this month’s cover story, is a family-owned company with a long, proud tradition in convenience retailing.

The company was founded back in 1923 in Angelo Tedeschi’s basement. It survived the Great Depression, numerous recessions and is thriving today with 189 stores across four New England states.

“A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into building the company, and we will always be grateful to our customers and employees that helped the business grow and flourish,” said company President and CEO Peter Tedeschi, who took the reigns of the family business from Charlie Fitzgibbons in 2008. “We take great pride in our past, but we are also keenly focused on our future. That means we are committed to building the best stores, with the best service and the best value. We’re not looking to pay lip service to delivering a great retail environment; it’s an important part of our culture.”

To that end, Tedeschi’s Food Shops is in the midst of once again transforming its retail image with a new store design, a thriving proprietary foodservice program and a growing private label food and beverage brand. Tedeschi-branded fuels anchor the forecourt.

“Pride in the brand begins internally,” said Tedeschi, who is the grandson of company founder Angelo Tedeschi. “Our employees believe in the culture and it becomes contagious. As employees serve as brand ambassadors it spreads to customers, franchisees, vendors—anyone that comes in contact with the brand.”

The job of executing at the store level is headed by Joe Hamza, vice president of sales and marketing, who oversees all facets of sales, marketing, merchandising and advertising, a position he has held since 2007.

“This is an exciting time for the convenience store industry because there are a lot of opportunities if you do things right,” said Hamza. “The industry remains fragmented, but it is still evolving faster than any other industry in retail. “

To date, Tedeschi’s has renovated about a dozen stores with plans to overhaul every store. Read all about the company’s transformation beginning here.

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