This will be my final editor’s memo, ending my 27 years in trade publishing, the last 18 of which were spent here at CStore Decisions.
It’s not joy that makes us grateful; it’s gratitude that makes joy possible. But I can’t acknowledge everyone to whom I owe a debt of gratitude without writing a tome that extends for thousands of words. As my fellow journalists understand, brevity is a virtue.
So many of you have enriched my life, but I must give a special shoutout to my friend, Maureen Azzato. It all started one morning in 1996, when a young Navy veteran with no magazine experience walked into an office building in midtown Manhattan and left with the title of staff writer, Convenience Store News. There were no cell phones or social media for me to tell the world. Just an excited trip home to get my suits to the dry cleaners to begin a new journey.
That was nearly three decades ago, but I remember my interview with Maureen as if it were yesterday. It was an inflection point in my life having grown up in the industry.
My father was an Esso/Exxon dealer in Mount Vernon, N.Y., for some 40 years, before retiring from the family business — started by his older brothers, my Uncle Martin and my Uncle Vinnie — when I was off in the Navy. I always felt I would come home to the family business, but life got in the way, as it often does, and had other ideas for my career.
I spent the summers of my youth pumping gas and checking oil long before I took a writing class. One of my favorite memories from those days was getting the “big stick” to measure the inventory in the underground tanks. It was hidden on the side of the building during the day, but in the twilight hours before close, it roared to life as big as the Empire State Building in my eyes. Wrestling with the 15-foot monster was seconded only by riding shotgun in the tow truck or going to dinner with my dad, uncles and cousins. Fortunately, my father Ed and older stepbrother Eddie are still with us, but the others in these great memories have passed on, my Uncle Vinnie most recently in October. Such great men who taught me a lot about having a great work ethic.
Professionally, Maureen drilled into me two important lessons: 1.) always be prepared, and 2.) try to be smarter than the people across the table from you. These were skills that I honed serving aboard the nuclear submarine USS Providence (SSN-719) during the Gulf War. She was spot on, and you guys always made sure I brought my A game.
You folks are more than friends; you’re like family to me. As I move onto the next chapter, I look forward to making new friendships, but maintaining my close ties with all of you.
I hope I lived up to your standards and you were proud of the work we did. Most of all, I appreciate that you trusted me, because that’s what this is all about — trust. You knew I would never treat any of you wrongly.
Without trust, there is nothing. But with trust, a small group of people like us can move mountains, and that’s what we did for 27 years.
To the greatest industry with the greatest people…thank you.
Reach me going forward at [email protected].