FEDA And Our Friend, Ray
The annual convention of the Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association begins today, April 5, in San Antonio. Yes, it’s at a J.W. Marriott. Ray Herrick, who has served, and I mean served, FEDA for some 34 years, likes Marriott properties. He told me the reason 15 years ago: Because they are dependable, well-run meeting properties and the Marriott meeting sales and coordinator folks are professional and easy to deal with.
I mention this not to tout Marriott, which is a fine organization, but rather as an indication of Ray’s steadfast professional competence. He knows what works and how to get things done. And it is in large part his extreme, yet self-effacing competence that has helped make FEDA the stable, highly successful association it is today and has been since 1983. It wasn’t always so, though with a few exceptions, most people still around don’t remember that.
When I became chief editor at what is now Foodservice Equipment & Supplies in 1982, FEDA was a bit of a mess. A number of the big dealerships, including Edward Don and the Wasserstrom Co., weren’t members. The broadline distributors were aggressively eating into traditional dealers’ more profitable tabletop and smallwares business. The growing dominance of chains, and their propensity to take E&S functions in-house during periods of fast growth was a serious threat to local and regionally based dealerships. Many companies had been hurt during the two recession of the early 1980s.
But the board of directors, particularly Henry Singer of Singer Equipment, hired Ray and began to right the ship. Ray will tell you he has been blessed by a number of great member leaders, including his current board. He, of course, is too polite to name names, not wanting to offend those he doesn’t mention. But all the presidents and board members of FEDA will tell you Ray runs a financially tight and well-functioning ship, knows how to accommodate the various egos and mananagement styles of his member leaders, and has a loyal, one might say adoring, set of employees who will do anything for him.
This FEDA convention begins Ray’s retirement year. He told the board a couple years ago it was time to start planning for his transition. The group announced a few weeks ago that Tracy Mulqueen, who has more than 25 years experience as an association executive, will take over for Ray after April 2018. I’m very much looking forward to meeting Ms. Mulqueen this week in San Antonio.
But when that transition does happen, it will be very weird for me and for many of us. Ray’s been at FEDA nearly all my career on the equipment and supplies side of this business. He’s been a friend, an advisor and a partner in many things over the years. Part of the reason I know his views on Marriott is because he essentially taught me and Chris Palmer, who runs our MUFES and other events, how to negotiate a meeting contract. We personally owe him for that and many other kindnesses. But as an industry, our debt to Ray is much larger.