|Dudley Native has Hands Full with Friendly’s Reviv|
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Ed Patenaude So I've Heard
Don’t try to reach the president of a major corporation when the business he heads is in the throes of a $337.2 million agreement to be sold.
It wasn’t that difficult, really, but it took a bit of patience to reach George M. Condos, CEO of Friendly’s Corp., undoubtedly because my timing was terrible. The proposed sale was announced a couple of days later.
Mr. Condos, a Dudley native, was gracious but brief when I first reached him, saying he was in a meeting and suggested a call-back date.
Pursuit of the chief executive officer and president of the Wilbraham-based ice cream and restaurant chain ignited when my former T&G boss, Bob Datz of Brimfield, e-mailed a story to me that was published in Business West, The Business Journal of Western Massachusetts, headquartered in Springfield.
The cover feature, “Sundae Best,” said George Condos wants to “re-energize and contemporize the Friendly’s brand.”
This piqued my curiosity because Mr. Condos was high in the worldwide executive ranks of Dunkin’ Donuts Corp., the last I knew.
When did he switch from coffee and doughnuts to ice cream and sandwiches?
The answer came in the Webster Honey Dew, a competing coffee and doughnuts place. Friends Thomas Baxter and Vasil V. Condos, George’s dad, were sipping java. I’ve known Vasil since Bartlett High School and he fielded my query with aplomb, answering: “Oh, about the first of the year.”
For a review, George M. Condos graduated from the University of Vermont, joined Dairy Queen Corp., and moved on to Dunkin’ Donuts in 1986, holding such executive positions as area vice president for Northeastern United States, Canada, and Europe; vice president of marketing, development and operations; and, finally, brand officer for franchise stores. Dunkin’ Donuts was generating a reported $4.3 billion in annual sales when George Condos left “America running on Dunkin’ Donuts.”
Retirement plans, possibly with service on a few corporate boards, were short-lived. Mr. Condos was recruited for Friendly’s top management job. The attraction, he said, “was a long-standing iconic brand … I had been a customer of for my whole life.”
There’s a Condos allegiance to Friendly’s, he said. His parents, Despina and Vasil V. Condos, always visited stores in the chain. His father, an accountant, worked in Worcester years ago, when George was still at home, and would lunch at a Worcester Friendly’s two and three times a week, as well as other times.
“We still go there for breakfast and the like,” Vasil Condos said, confirming his son’s recollections. Vasil added a bit about summer and ice cream. “My wife and I love the same kind of sundaes,” he added. “That’s one thing we agree on.”
If his parents love Friendly’s products, George Condos found true love at the chain’s Webster store, where he met Laurie Schremser in the early ’70s. He grew up in Dudley, and she grew up in Webster, a daughter of Emma M. Schremser and the late Wesley Schremser.
Their attraction to one another grew with time, but there were priorities between their initial Friendly’s meeting and matrimony. George completed business administration and management studies in Vermont, and Laurie graduated from Salve Regina College in Rhode Island. They married in 1981, and Laurie went on to graduate school in Washington, D.C., earning a law degree.
George and Laurie have two daughters, Elizabeth, 20, majoring in engineering at Cornell University, and Emily, 14, at home. Naturally, the young ladies are third-generation Condos who prefer Friendly’s. The George Condos family lives on Cape Cod.
The new president of Friendly’s wants “to improve the operation and decor of the restaurants.” Some menu changes are on the drawing boards, such as iced lattes, Angus beef sandwiches, and a chocolate chip ice cream made with Ghirardelli’s chocolate. President Condos<
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