Fuel for the hungry person, the empty car, and thought
by Virginia Lindauer Simmon
Bob deLaricheliere, the longtime owner of Bayside Quick Stop, has created an oasis of food, friendliness, and fuel for the people of Malletts Bay. He owns 40 or 50 Hawaiian shirts, and wears one daily.
Bob deLaricheliere follows what he calls “a monk’s schedule — up by 3:15 a.m. and at the store by 4:30 or 4:45. “It takes about an hour and a half to brew coffee and bake the muffins and set the store up and do the paperwork,” he says. “Then I open at 6, and it’s ‘Hey, how ya doin’?’”
The “store” is Bayside Quick Stop in Malletts Bay. From the outside, it’s a typical convenience store that sells gas — Citgo, a brand with no added ethanol — serves breakfast and lunch food to go, and offers a supply of groceries, beverages, and other merchandise for people in a hurry. It’s also where deLaricheliere has nurtured his connection to the Colchester community for 22 years.
Bayside was not his first foray into retail or food service, but it’s the one that has lasted the longest. After high school at the College de Montreal, where he had won a scholarship from St.-Jean-Baptiste Society to study classics, the Burlington native earned a bachelor’s degree in French at St. Michael’s College in Colchester. His initial career was in the Army National Guard, with active duty in San Antonio and Louisiana during the Vietnam era.
After military duty, in the late 1960s he went to work as a sales representative for Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. One day, on his way to an appointment, he saw a driver trying to get her car out of the mud in a driveway. “I didn’t have time to stop, because I was going to be late for my appointment,” he says, “but when I came back and she was still stuck, I helped her, introduced myself, and it went from there.” That woman was Aline Landry, his future wife.
DeLaricheliere sold life and health insurance and investments — even earned his Certified Life Underwriter designation — and in his final year in the business, was president of the local Life Underwriters Association. It was 1977, and he was 33.
That year, he was presented with an opportunity to buy a local business. “It was passive selling as opposed to active selling,” he says, “and I thought this might fit better with my style.”
He bought the shop — the Old North End Submarine Co. at North Winooski Avenue and North Street in Burlington — which he ran for a number of years. He found he liked the business, so in May of 1986 when Tom Sheppard approached him about buying Bayside Quick Stop, deLaricheliere gave it serious consideration.
“Tom had started it in 1984, and he ran it with his wife and son, Christopher, for a year, and said, ‘This is a lot more hands-on that I want.’ He knew that I was in the business, and we’d been acquaintances and friends for some time, so three weeks later, I was at Bayside.”
Bayside has a front kitchen where sandwiches and salads are made. Heavy, serious cooking is done behind the scenes in the back of the building. Brian McCarter is the kitchen manager/chef.
DeLaricheliere held on to the submarine shop for about three more years, and in the meantime, opened an ice cream shop in the building next door to Bayside. “I had gotten back into insurance in 1984, and was doing that, too,” he says with a chuckle. “I was ready to shoot myself.”
There came a moment when, he says, “I had a very lucid thought: Why don’t you take something and do that well rather than try to do a whole bunch of things?” By the late 1980s, he had quit the insurance business for the second time, sold the ice cream shop, and built a house for his family in South Burlington.
A self-confessed A-type personality, deLaricheliere has infused the store’s operation with an abundance of small touches that have created a big impact on employees, customers, and, as a result, sales.
“I don’t think people do what I do with the idea they’re going to get rich,” he says. “If they had the idea they were going to get rich, they would buy other stores: develop a chain, get off the register, and devote themselves to buying other stores.”
Not that he hasn’t considered it, he confesses. “I just found that I liked the everyday contact with people and the friendships I’ve developed over the years — the neat stories I’ve heard, the people I’ve met — and that’s what makes it worthwhile.”
It’s the small things that set Bayside apart from the typical convenience store. Some of them are obvious, some are not. More obvious is the banter that occurs at the cash register. Whether it’s deLaricheliere or one of his staff, regular customers are always greeted by name, and new customers are welcomed into the circle.
This is the result of a conscious focus on training new employees. “When they first come aboard,” says deLaricheliere, “they spend a shift or two with me, and then I ask them to train with other people, because I think other people are better able to show them the tasks they’re going to be performing on a regular basis.
“My reason having them train with me is to get them used to what we’re about, which is customer relations — spend some time learning customers’ names; spend some time smiling; make them feel welcome, so they get a feel for what kind of store it is.”
Some of his employees have gone on to do “wonderful things,” he says. “One is a landscape architect, another is a big deal with CNN in Atlanta. My son, Alex, who worked with me for years, is now a vice president with Goldman Sachs.” Aimee, one of his two daughters, is a teacher at Colchester High School and working at Bayside in the summer.
DeLaricheliere says he’s often felt an obligation to the community to train the young people they send to him for part-time work. He tells them, “This isn’t the last job you’ll ever have; I don’t expect somebody of your quality to work for me for a long time. While you’re here, you’ll learn how to be on time, be a team player, treat customers how you’d like to be treated — things that will stand you in good stead in your future career. These are life skills you will use even as president of a multinational corporation.”
Full-time employees stay on. A recent change in kitchen staffing was only the third since deLaricheliere has owned the store.
Bayside attracts and keeps good employees. James Beckett, a clerk, checks one of the coffee containers.
“When I bought the store, Barb Senesac ran the kitchen for a number of years, then left to assume grandparenting duties for her grandchildren,” deLaricheliere says. “She remained in contact with us, and in the mid 1990s, returned to work part time, and she’s still working part time for us.”
Following Senesac was Jean Hudson, who ran the kitchen for about 10 years; then Joanne Boisselle, who left in March. Brian McCarter, who now runs the kitchen, was moved over from store duties.
The kitchen and food are important at Bayside. Coffee, from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, is kept tasty, he says, by “keeping the water at a precise brewing temperature, keeping the equipment clean, and grinding our own beans for the Vermont Country Blend.”
Equal care is taken with food. “We have a lot of people kicking in ideas as far as salads and food, whether it’s a jambalaya that comes from a Paul Prudhomme recipe I made back in the ’80s and thought, ‘Gee, I wonder if that would go over,’ to workmen’s favorites like shepherd’s pie and meatloaf, and mashed potatoes and gravy — just things we try to do on a homemade basis.” A big a.m. hit is breakfast pizza, which features pizza dough topped with eggs, bacon, ham, and sausage.
His love of good food has led deLaricheliere to become quite an accomplished cook. A few years ago, he subscribed to Cooks Illustrated, and “all of a sudden, my cooking skills, which had been growing in a rather flat plane, took off. I would read it cover to cover, thinking, ‘OK, I want to try this, try that, try this, try this.’”
These days, he does about 90 percent of the cooking and all of the meal planning for himself and Aline, an events coordinator at St. Michael’s College. “I go grocery shopping with my wife. She buys essentials — cat food, dog food, paper towels, Kleenex — and I buy meat and chicken and vegetables for the meals I’ve planned.”
The store is set up in a way that allows him to have everything done by 1 p.m. most days. “If I’m satisfied that everything is fine, I’ll leave at that point,” he says. “The dogs are anxiously awaiting my arrival. Then it’s either golf or reading or getting ready to cook.”
He continues to love what he does. “I can walk into my store on Sunday morning and say, ‘Gee, I’ve got five bucks of quarters — that’s not going to last — and all of a sudden somebody walks in who I know keeps quarters at his house, and pretty soon I’ve got 50 bucks worth of quarters.”
DeLaricheliere thinks the Colchester community might have influenced his longevity in a business where single-store operators don’t last much longer than six or seven years. “Colchester must be different,” he says as he lists other longtime businesses in town such as Dick Mazza’s General Store, in the same family for 54 years; and the former Brennan’s at the corner of Heineberg and Porter’s Point Road, open at least 25 years before being bought by Lou Raffke, who ran it as Lou’s Corner Store for another 25 years and then sold it to the Handy family’s Brothers and Sisters Corp.
That sense of community applies to inter-store relations as well as those with customers. “If I run out of something, I go over there, and likewise, he’ll come here if he runs out, says Mark Godaire, general manager of Dick Mazza’s General Store. “I’ll give him a call with a question or if someone passes a bad check. We have a mutual relationship.”
“We’re a very basic business — not too far up the food chain,” deLaricheliere says, laughing. “We’re not selling diamonds, not selling furniture, and our markup isn’t 400 percent, but we get a lot of repeat customers if we’re doing it well, so the goal is to do what we’re doing in a very efficient manner.
“It’s a crazy, wild environment, but I thrive on it.” •