Boston radio legend Howie Carr had just wrapped up the live remote of his radio show from the DDIFO National Conference when he found himself in the middle of the cocktail party that preceded the Hall of Fame dinner. Carr, who is known for telling it like it is, whether the topic centers on politics or on Boston’s most famous wiseguy, crime boss Whitey Bulger, was making his way towards some hors d ‘oeuvres. “I have to get something to eat. I’m starved,” he said.

When this writer asked him to join the group for dinner and help celebrate two of Dunkin’ Donuts’ most impactful franchisees. Carr was grateful for the invitation but said he had to return to Boston. As he assembled some cheese, crackers and veggies, Carr said, “Just tell those guys, I love Dunkin’ Donuts.” Had he stayed, Carr would have gained an even deeper appreciation for the brand and the people who make it successful.

Nick Apostoleres was a Dunkin’ Donuts trailblazer in the truest sense of the word. When, as a teenager, his family moved from New Jersey to open a Dunkin’ Donuts in Brandon, Florida, just outside Tampa, the community had 40,000 residents. In 1973, there were no Dunkin’ Donuts in the immediate area and the brand had little recognition. Still, the family saw Dunkin’ as an opportunity to create something lasting for themselves and their community. When Apostoleres’ father contracted Leukemia and died shortly after, Nick and his family doubled down on the effort to succeed. When he relocated the family’s original shop to a nearby location which featured a drive-thru, it became Dunkin’ busiest location in the state of Florida.

Over the years, the Apostoleres family expanded their footprint and Nick took on the responsibility of representing the now-growing Tampa market on several brand advisory councils and the local Advertising Committee. His goal was always to improve conditions for the new franchisees that were developing the region.

“The Tampa market wasn’t like those markets in the Northeast. It took years for the market to transition from donuts to coffee,” he told Independent Joe over the summer.

Today Nick Apostoleres is recognized by his peers as a leader, for his work helping position Dunkin’ in the market and assisting other franchisees. One of those peers, Tom Daly, introduced Apostoleres as he was being officially recognized as a member of the DDIFO Franchise Owners Hall of Fame.

“I met Nick in 2007 when my family and some business partners entered the Tampa market, in a very difficult time, and Nick was always there to help and support us in any way possible,” Daly said.

As he thanked the attendees and the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee that night, Apostoleres immediately turned the focus away from himself and onto the organization hosting the festivities.

“I’ve seen so much value in the DDIFO. I hope we can get a lot more nationwide participation,” he said noting how unity is so critical for everyone’s success.

“Having one voice, and having something like the DDIFO and all of us banding together in times like these where the brand is a publicly traded company and has a lot of pressure [on it], if we stay united, we will keep the brand great.”

Even as Apostoleres expressed his honor at being recognized as a member of the Hall of Fame, he found a way to share the spotlight. “It’s nice for Tampa to get a little recognition, too.”

Duke Carvalho doesn’t worry whether his hometown is on Dunkin’s radar. As a longtime franchise owner in Watertown, Mass. – just 25 miles from brand headquarters – Carvalho has been at the center of Dunkin’s continued growth and popularity. Like so many of his peers, Carvalho was recruited to be a franchisee through a network of Portuguese immigrants who settled in New England and sought opportunity as small business owners. Carvalho’s introduction to the system came through another DDIFO Hall of Fame member, Tony Couto.

“When I started in this business in 1978, I could not have imagined or envisioned where it would have brought us. But with dedication, hard work and a passion for this brand, I stand here tonight humbled to receive this recognition,” Carvalho said.

In his nearly 40 years as a Dunkin’ Donuts owner and operator, Carvalho has taken an active role on several councils and committees, including the Ad Committee, the DCP and the Leadership Council, on which he served as co-Chair. He is a past recipient of the Dunkin’ President’s Club Award, the Combo-Operator of the Year Award, and the Irv Robins and Burt Baskin Award for Superior Innovation in 1999. He was also part of the leadership of DDIFO, serving as Treasurer in 1981 and Chairman some years later.

As he received his Hall of Fame award, Carvalho stopped to recognize the people who helped him get here. “I would not be here today if it wasn't for the support of my family, my friends and my fellow franchisees.”