Hugs, tears and remembrances punctuated the third annual DDIFO Franchise Owners Hall of Fame Dinner and Gala held during the National Conference in Atlantic City. Six individuals, including the first woman, were recognized for their lifetime contributions to the Dunkin’ system.
Amrit Patel, who came to the United States in 1970 from Gujarat, India and built a network of 35 stores in Chicago, was honored for helping develop Dunkin’ Donuts ubiquity in America’s third largest city and helping so many immigrant families have a piece of the American dream.
“I am honored to be recognized here tonight,” said Patel, who was joined by family, friends and fellow Chicago-area franchisees. “My goal was running my own shop. But persons similar to me wanted to go into the business, so I sent them to Dunkin’ Donuts.”
“Amrit helped hundreds of people get into the Dunkin’ system,” said Karim Khoja, whose father, he remembers, was one of those beneficiaries. “He never cared about your religion or the color of your skin. He just wanted to help you buy a franchise.”
Antonio (Tony) Andrade also came to this country in search of the American dream. He found it, thanks in part to his brother, Manny, who began buying Dunkin’ Donuts shops in the late 1960s and created opportunities for his extended family.
By the time Tony opened his first store in 1975, Dunkin’ Donuts was growing in popularity throughout New England. Tony wanted to help others get involved. John Motta was one of those early beneficiaries of Tony’s generosity. It was John’s honor to introduce Tony at the Gala.
“Tony helped my family get into this business and for that we are grateful,” said Motta.
“It’s an honor for me to be remembered by all the franchisees,” said Tony. “We worked hard but we had fun in this business.”
Tony is retired now, having handed the reins of his network to his children. He enjoys playing golf and spending time with his family.
Attorney Carl Lisa also got involved in the Dunkin’ business early on—when Manny Andrade came to his Providence office looking for legal help. For almost half a century, Carl has been a trusted advisor for hundreds of franchise owners and the DDIFO.
His induction into the DDIFO Franchise Owners Hall of Fame was Carl’s second such honor. His law partner, Louis Souza, reminded the audience of Carl’s athletic prowess in college. A record-setting sprinter, Carl is enshrined in the University of Rhode Island’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
His work as DDIFO’s General Counsel has resulted in landmark results, like the 20-year renewal clause in the 2011 Franchise Agreement.
“I feel great where this organization is today. I see the long road ahead as a successful one,” said Carl.
Mark Silverstein, a New Hampshire franchisee, had a vision for leveraging the collective strength of Dunkin’ franchisees into a purchasing and supply chain cooperative that became a model within the Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) industry. The Distributor Commitment Program (DCP) began in the northeast but quickly spread into other regions.
As the Executive Director of the Northeast DCP, Silverstein used his powers of persuasion to lay the groundwork for the national entity that exists today.
“He could persuade you to see his point of view, help you understand his way of thinking so you could think that way also,” said Mark Dubinsky, a former franchisee and a long-time friend of Silverstein.
“We benefit every day from his vision,” said Ed Wolak, who accepted the honor on behalf of Mark, who could not make the trip to Atlantic City.
Today’s franchise owners also benefit greatly from the vision of another Dunkin’ pioneer, Dave Segal. While he never owned a franchise, Segal is credited with devising the system that allowed franchise owners to own the land on which their stores sit, enabling franchisees to have more control over their costs, and develop greater equity in their business.
“If it wasn’t for Dave, we would be like McDonald’s,” said Mark Dubinsky, who accepted the award on Segal’s behalf. “We would be renting our shops like McDonald’s franchisees do.”
Segal was one of the first people hired by Dunkin’ Donuts founder Bill Rosenberg. The two shared the boyhood experience of driving an ice cream truck—as well as the experience of building the iconic Dunkin’ brand.
Helen D’Alelio is the first woman enshrined in the DDIFO Franchise Owners Hall of Fame. Until her passing in 2007, Helen was accustomed to conducting business surrounded by men—that’s the way the Dunkin’ system was in the early days.
“Mom would raise her hand to get her point across in franchisee meetings,” said Mitzi Lawlor, Helen’s daughter who helps runs the family business and learned early on from Mom the importance of being heard. “She told me, ‘Sometimes you just have to blurt it out…’”
Helen D’Alelio became an active member of the franchisee community soon after buying the family’s first shop in 1977.
“She was fighting for franchisees before women did that kind of thing,” DDIFO Executive Director Ed Shanahan said as he introduced Helen’s family at the Hall of Fame Gala.
“If she were here today and could say anything, she’d just go on and on. She’d be beaming,” said her son Gary.
“My mother’s claim to fame was that the three of [us] were going to get along and work together and get along and respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses going forward. That’s what has made us successful,” said Lawlor.