It wasn’t until I met C.J. DeCrescente that I began to notice all the DeCrescente Distributing trucks around Saratoga Springs. Sure, I noticed the delivery trucks that always seem to be lining Caroline Street but I never realized just how many of them are from DeCrescente. Dude, they’re everywhere.
DeCrescente is a Mechanicville-based beverage distribution company that’s celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2018. Angelo DeCrescente founded the business in 1948 with one truck, and since then, the fleet has expanded to 55, which annually delivers ten million cases of beer and other beverages to clients in 11 counties in Upstate New York. That’s up to 800 cases per day during the height of the summer season. More importantly, since the beginning, the company has stayed family owned: Angelo’s son Carmine I took over in ’73 and his son C.J., who’s the current President, assumed the leadership role in ’97. Now C.J.’s sons, Matthew and Carmine III, both work at the company.
I first met C.J. at the home of Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz, of all places. For being the wildly successful force behind DeCrescente Distributing’s growth over the past two decades, C.J. was surprisingly easy to talk to, and seemed just as captivated by Ortiz’s decked-out Red Sox memorabilia-filled man cave as I was. (DeCrescente distributes Ortiz’s Arias Wine.)
A few months later, C.J. and I reconnected to discuss DeCrescente Distributing’s past, present and future. I first asked him about his company’s secret sauce: How have the DeCrescentes kept their business afloat and in the family for 70 years? “I’m not trying to be cliché, but I think if you can create an environment and a culture where your people can feel good about where they work and that they have a voice and can come forward and bring their ideas or issues to you, that creates the right culture and a family-type atmosphere,” he says. In other words, run the business as if it were a family. For example, DeCrescente hosts various family-friendly activities throughout the year for its employees, including a breakfast with Santa Claus during the holiday season and a night at the Great Escape in Queensbury. As for DeCrescente himself, running the family business wasn’t always in the cards. C.J. actually wanted to be a physical education teacher, and only after driving his first sales route did he find his place in the business. “I liked the competitiveness of it and I’ve always liked dealing with people, so that made me go in the beer direction,” he says.
Turns out that “the beer direction” isn’t all business, all the time; it’s allowed C.J. to have a positive impact on his community, too. For one, he serves on the boards of the Northeastern New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, CAPTAIN Community Human Services and the David Ortiz Children’s Fund. He’s also the Chairman of the New York State Police Signal 30 Benefit Fund, which helps support officers injured or killed in the line of duty and their families. All that, and DeCrescente Distributing partners with dozens of other nonprofit organizations throughout the year for benefits in the Capital Region. “The business that we do in the area has just enabled us to participate in various philanthropic activities that we like doing and that are just good for the community,” C.J. says.
C.J. remains quite bullish about the next 70 years of DeCrescente Distributing. “I want the company to be better than it was, and by the time it gets to my son, I want him to be able to make it better than when I had it,” he says. “If he can do better than me, then I’ve done my job. My goal is to put my two boys in the best position to succeed in the future. That’s really my job now—to get them ready.”
And that, my friends, is the key to a family business that just plain works. Happy birthday, DeCrescente Distributing. I look forward to seeing many more of your trucks roll by.