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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."
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.