DeCrescente Distributing Company is proud to celebrate its 75th birthday this year. In this first part of our two-part series, we’re celebrating some of our team’s favorite memories of working for DDC over the years. In the next issue, we’ll look ahead at what’s in store for the future at DDC.
After 43 years, my coolest memory is I can say I worked with my grandfather, mom, dad, and now my children. Perhaps the greatest education I received was starting at entry-level and working just about every job here, including sweeping the floor at the end of the day! Dad was a stickler about this, and still today visitors always comment on how clean and organized our facility is. At the time, I didn’t realize this was the best way to learn the business, from the bottom up, while also earning respect from fellow employees. When I moved to the office as VP, it was on-the-job daily training. I was next door to Dad where I could listen, jump in, ask him questions, and be part of the many supplier meetings. My dad gave me the best education I could ever receive.
Another fond memory, I will share with you dates back to 1979.
Back then, you learned a sales or driver route by going to the first stop and asking where the next place was! No CDL, no formal training, GPS, supervisor work-withs, or anything like today. A DDC favorite named Chester Loss, sustained a knee injury on a terrible fall while working at home. My dad told me to go home and get a tie on and that Chet had injured his knee and I was needed to cover his route that week. I had never made a sales call in my life. He said, “By the way, the route is Sacandaga.” I had never even been there, and knew nothing about it.
What to do? My grandfather Angelo was retired now. I had always heard him talk about Sacandaga Lake. I made a detour and went to his home. (39 Viall Avenue.)
I figured what do I have to lose? I’m going to stop at “Gramps” house and see if he wants to take a ride. He said “Absolutely!” We spent the day together, and what a day! We visited each account, he introduced me, gave me some pointers, and reminisced with all the customers he had known for years. I think it was a fun day for him, trying to help the future generation, but for me, it was and will always be priceless!
Vice President Carmine DeCrescente III:
I have so many great memories growing up in this company, but one that sticks out happened when I was 12 or 13 years old. I used to sneak into the warehouse to drive the forklifts while the warehouse was closed for lunch. One day, I was driving around in circles with the forks at eye level when I hit a pallet of empties with the forks. There was broken glass everywhere! Fortunately, we had a family friend working upstairs who heard it happen and helped me clean it up. Nobody was hurt and nobody ever knew about it! It goes to show you how far we’ve come in terms of safety!
32 year veteran Steve Rychcik
I was one of the original salespeople when we started our Soft Drink Division. Retailers used to say Carm Sr. was crazy having a separate sales force selling a small amount of product – now here we are 32 years later selling over 4 million cases of Soft Drinks. I then moved into a beer sales route in Albany, then to District Manager, Sales Director, Marketing Manager back to Sales Director. So much has changed these last 32 years with us selling not just beer and soda but Snacks, Gas, Line Cleaning, BIB, Wine, and Spirits. We are truly a full-service distribution company now. I’ve been fortunate to attend a bunch of bucket items in my tenure here including Super Bowl XXV in San Diego; the 1999 MLB All-Star Game at Fenway Park (which had one of the greatest Home Run Derbeys ever); Game 1 of the 2003 World Series at Yankee Stadium; The 2009 Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta Georgia (Thank You CJ); 2 NASCAR Events (even was able to drive a car in London NH), Trip to Ireland and more.
Vice President of Human Resources Aileen Flach, an 11-year veteran:
Of all of the events we do, I have a special place in my heart for the President’s Award ceremony. Each year, it’s such a sweet event filled with sincere gratitude and an opportunity to meet up with employees who live and breathe our company values day after day. It’s generally an intimate dinner for about 12 and includes the presentation of the award including a framed copy of the essay that the person(s) nominating them submitted. The group does self-introductions and talks about who they are and how they approach their work. It’s nice to hear the emotion behind our employees’ dedication to the company. It’s an inspirational and moving celebration!
19 year veteran Jackie Thyrring:
Giving back to the people and organizations in our community is a very important piece of the DDC culture. Being a member of the Employee Activity Committee, one of my favorite memories was the yearly holiday visits to the area nursing homes and hospitals. We would spend the entire day, traveling from location to location. Each member of the EAC would dress up as a holiday character. For me, I recall dressing up as a toy soldier one year and most recently an elf. We would sing carols and encourage the residents to sing and dance along with us. At one visit I remember grabbing the microphone, canvassing the room, and inviting individual residents to sing along with me. It was so much fun and so fulfilling to brighten someone’s day and bring smiles to their faces.
14 year veteran Cindy Hankle:
My funniest memory is when I came in for my interview and took my test. Our then Vice President of HR Joanne left me in the room and completely forgot I was there. I had to leave and go find her. She was mortified and we laughed about it for years… Another thing I love about this company is that our current President CJ will walk through the halls and ask how we are doing. I so appreciate that he is so approachable and always willing to listen. What company with this many employees can say that?!
45-year veteran Dom Clements:
I will never forget the Friday at 4 pm when I got called into the office and was told that we had just secured a new acquisition and we were to start delivering to Albany and Rensselaer Counties on Monday… Friday to Monday gave us a lot to do almost immediately. That meant some of us came in on Saturday and Sunday to interview people, hire them and have them ready to start work only 48 hours later! In true DeCrescente style, we were ready to roll on that Monday. It was a challenge but we got through it and everything moved ahead.
39-year veteran Mike Cambage:
I’ll never forget the first day I was hired. It was for a merchandising job in October 1983. Carm Sr. oversaw everything back then so that’s who I had to meet with. We met in Carm’s office, which was then in the Satch Sales building (on Saratoga Ave., near the railroad tracks). We talked, I was hired on the spot, we shook hands, and on my way of out the office, Carm noticed I had driven in in a pickup truck so he asked me, “Can you do me a favor and deliver this keg for me?” That’s it… I picked up that keg, no hand cart, no invoice, just put it in my truck & delivered it to Two Chefs, a restaurant in Malta. It marked the beginning of a long career here at DDC.
39-year veteran Sharon Clements:
When I first came to work in 1984, it was just me and C.J.’s mom Mary who worked in the office. We did it all… answered the phones, took customer orders, put them into the computer (archaic by today’s standards), ran the invoices, and ran the load sheets for the warehouse so they could load the trucks. When the drivers came back, we counted the money, reconciled the invoices, and made the daily bank deposits! We serviced only 2 counties then, Saratoga & Schenectady and there were 7 salesmen.
39-year veteran Don Miller:
I’ve been here to see tremendous growth over the years. Acquisitions of the Keis & Fitzgerald Brothers in 1994 established us as the main distributor in the area. And then, winning 4 Founders Awards and 6 successive Presidents Awards from Coors put us on the map as a nationally recognized leader in the industry. Reaching the 1 million cases mark in 1987 was another highlight for me!
36-year veteran Jay Konifka:
Like many of us who have been around a long time, there are plenty of memories surrounding Carm Sr. He used to walk around the building and stop to talk to all of us as we worked. We all looked forward to seeing him around because he was always good for some laughs and great conversation. My favorite memory was when he found out I was a musician in a band. Being one of the best clarinet players in the Capital District, if not the best, he loved to talk to me about music and would always ask me if I had a gig for the upcoming weekend and swore he was going to come out and cheer me on. I always followed that up by telling him to bring his clarinet with him and I would bring him up on stage with us and we could jam together! And, then I had better get back to work!
35-year veteran Ray Cordani:
Many of my favorite memories go way back to working alongside C.J.’s dad Carm Sr. & the time I co-conspired to “kidnap” his dog Elvis, all in good fun, of course! But my favorite milestone memory happened in 2006. That year we attained the SHARP Award from OSHA and then that same year was recognized as one of the Safest Companies to work at in the entire state of NY, followed by winning the DDC President’s Award for the third time in 6 years! TRIFECTA
34-year veteran Tom Turcotte:
One of my most vivid memories was on the aftermath of the devastating tornado that tore through parts of Mechanicville on May 31, 1998. I’ll never forget coming into work the next day and seeing what had happened: some of the roofs had been blown off buildings, pieces of 2x4s from Viall Ave Hill homes that were destroyed had torn into the sides of our buildings, our garage was completely down and some of our trucks had flipped over. Our facility suffered major damage estimated to over $3M in building, fleet and inventory damage. However, we only were only closed for 1 day as operations and all employees pitched in to ensure that customers were minimally affected. We got to work literally picking up the pieces, and we brought in generators on flatbeds to get the power back on. Unbelievably, we were able to make some deliveries that next day. Unfortunately, it also affected many of our employees so we started a fund of contributions to help them as they started rebuilding their own personal properties.
32-year veteran Fred DeCelle:
One of the funniest things that happened to me personally was in August 2009. Ray Cordani sent this picture to Andy Laing saying “Just in case Freddie reports his booster seat missing, let him know I found it today. He’ll be able to reach the pedals again to drive his forklift tomorrow.”
31-year veteran Andy Laing:
When I started here as a merchandiser, I think I was the 19th or 20th employee! I went from merchandising to sales and now am proud to manage the best fleet and one of the most well-planned campuses in the business. We won the TANY Fleet Safety Award for the first time 5 years ago and have won every year since, and our building blueprint has been expanded 65,000 sq. ft. with our new warehouse addition. We’ve come a long way!
26-year veteran Katie Powers:
I think back to the beginnings of our Employee Activity Committee (EAC), formed 20 years ago, in 2002. I was one of the founding members. The EAC had our first Kids Party that year in the old Conference Center, now demolished due to our most recent expansion. Photos with Santa were taken by a committee member, while other members were in a separate room printing, cutting and placing into photo cards. We did all the decorating ourselves and even made our own coloring books for the kids! It’s come a long way and today remains one of the most popular events for our DDC families.
22-year veteran Nadine Dickinson:
I loved when we used to have our annual golf outing at Fairways of Halfmoon to raise funds for the DDC Scholarship. My team was always Turk, Andy, Katie, and myself. Katie and I golfed for fun, as we certainly weren’t the best golfers, but we sure had a good time! It brought us together for a great day of golf, cocktails, dinner, socializing and, of course, raising money for a great cause.