By Leo Vercollone
This article first appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Massachusetts Family Business magazine.
Today, we proudly stand as a leading, independent chain of convenience stores and gasoline stations, with locations throughout Eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but the humble beginnings of our family-owned business were anything but lofty!
What was to become VERC Enterprises began in 1975 when our father, Eugene Vercollone and my brother Paul opened a single car wash in Marshfield. Five years, a couple of gas stations and a car wash later, VERC Enterprises branched out to include a car rental business.
We were going in a lot of different directions, but the bottom line was that my father started the family business to offer his children jobs.
Throughout the decades, the business faced many challenges – I wanted to grow the company with gas stations while my older brother, Jack, was more inclined toward the auto rental business; this direction would eventually lead to VERC Rentals, a separate entity from VERC Enterprises. Other issues presented themselves along the way, but through it all, we never lost sight of the importance of family. My father would say, “get along with each other no matter what you do; be friendly and remember, I want to see all my grandchildren on a regular basis.”
I should point out that my dad was “old school” when it came to his three daughters.; he believed “the business was for the boys” and when Dad passed, we learned that our sisters were upset they weren’t involved in decisions made about the family business. We worked to bridge that gap over the ensuing years, and I am grateful those fences were mended before the loss of one of my sisters.
It’s a lesson learned; I have four children – three daughters and a son – and while I have the utmost respect for my father and all he instilled in us, I would have handled the division of authority between my brothers and sisters differently.
Today, VERC Enterprises is proud to have more than 350 employees and to be recognized as a leader in hiring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In fact, over 20 percent of our workforce consists of capable and appreciative individuals who are developmentally challenged/disabled. We work closely with numerous state agencies to recruit IDD persons and have been honored by such organizations as Best Buddies and The Arc. We were recently named “Employer of the Year” by the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind and The Arc of Greater Plymouth.
We believe that work provides dignity and meaning to life, and our mission has always been to help others. We believe that businesses should be leaders in the communities. It is a calling we take seriously.
While our convenience store/gasoline/car wash model has proven to be a successful one, we recognize the need to branch out. Over the past year we purchased the former Mayflower Food & Spirits in Plymouth, a 40-year-old business that has been the go-to location in the area for prepared meals, deli items, homemade pastries and more. We’ve changed the name to Mayflower Provisions to better reflect all the store offers … and naturally, added a gasoline outlet!
We have had a strong presence in Plymouth as well as the surrounding South Shore communities, and we’re delighted to add Provisions to our VERC family. This business has been a mainstay of Plymouth for many years and has proven to be such a successful purchase that we may modify some of our other locations to add some of the services that Mayflower Provisions offers.
Looking to the future and the next generation, I believe it’s important for our children and grandchildren to earn their own way in the family business. In fact, I favor a board of advisors comprised of non-family members because they may be able to see issues that I may not because I’m too close. Growing a family business internally sometimes means leaving family members out of key roles. It also means having a willingness to select the best-qualified individuals to run the company.
The bottom line is we don’t yet know whether a member of the next generation of the Vercollone family will eventually run the company. We’ll know in a few years, but until then we intend to keep doing what we do best – treating our associates like family, providing solid service to customers, contributing to the community and offering employment to individuals who have physical or mental disabilities.
On this last point, we have made it a mission to support and encourage people with IDD because employment not only supplies a paycheck, but also provides that important sense of “place in the world” for everyone, including to members of a population whose potential is too often overlooked.
Leo Vercollone is president of VERC Enterprises.