Dean Durling, Quikchek Hall of Fame // Business of the Year
Since taking the reins at QuickChek 10 years ago, Dean Durling has been leading the convenience store chain in achieving significant growth. But his involvement with the retailer goes back much further than the 2000s. As a great grandson of the company's founder, he essentially grew up in the family business, which got its start back in 1888 as Durling Farms, a dairy business.
"Even before I could drive, I would ride my bicycle to the milk company and catch a ride on a truck down to our store where I stocked shelves," Durling says. "Later, my brother and I had our own milk route."
QuickChek has spread from its launching pad in Dunellen. Today, it is a privately held, family- owned firm, operating more than 130 stores throughout New Jersey and southern New York, and employing more than 3,500 team members.
In his 35-plus-year career with the company, Durling has served in a variety of roles, from director of real estate and construction, to assistant director of human resources, to vice president of marketing, to executive vice president, and finally president and CEO.
"Having so many different jobs within the organization has definitely helped me relate to our associates better," he says. "It's also given me a better appreciation for how our customers see the store and what they would benefit from."
As the top executive, Durling has overseen a jump in annual revenue, from $300 million to more than $900 million, and geographic expansion into New York. The company also has placed a greater emphasis on food service and fuel. It currently operates 37 fuel sites, and all new stores are built with fuel dispensers.
Armed with what he refers to as "restless unsatisfaction," Durling plans to keep spurring QuickChek on its path of growth and improvement. That effort includes reinvesting profits back into the business, enhancing programs and building new stores.
"Our mission is to be 'a Great Place to Work, a Great Place to Shop and a Great Place to Invest,'" Durling says. "All strategies are grounded in that mission."
In shaping QuickChek into a great place to work, Durling strives to provide each associate with opportunities for personal growth. Every team member is presented with opportunities for professional development from the start. For example, all new hires spend a full day learning how to make the company a great place to work and a great place to shop. Durling makes it a point to meet all new hires face-to-face and talk to them about their career prospects.
"Our culture is about giving ordinary people extraordinary opportunities," he says. "We have numerous employee success stories, including current vice presidents who started out working part time in our stores."
With a long history of giving back to its neighbors and the communities it serves, QuickChek regularly participates in local events, such as the Branchburg Charity Golf Outing, the Midland Run, Highland's Beach Cleanup Day and Warwick's Taste of the Town celebration. In addition, team associates annually support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation through a multitiered program that includes sneaker sales, a golf outing, community fundraising events, and more.
The company's signature event, however, is the annual New Jersey Festival of Ballooning. Sponsored by QuickChek, the festival is recognized as the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America. In addition to featuring 125 unique air balloons, the festival also boasts concerts, crafts, food and fireworks.
Outside of work, Durling's focus is on his family. Shortly after he took over the family business, he decided it was time to take inventory of his life. As a result, he made a list of everything he was doing and then he circled the two things that were most important to him: family and QuickChek.
"At that point I resigned from all other commitments and have since focused on being the best husband and father that I can be, and to being the best leader I can be for QuickChek," Durling says. "If I can do both of those well, I've won the game."
The awards ceremony will take place Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at The Palace at Somerset Park, 333 Davidson Avenue, Somerset, NJ 08873. Online registration is closed but register via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or at the door.
More information is available at the event page.
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Hall of Fame
Business of the Year