Gary Dake Is President of Stewart’s Shops in Saratoga Springs, NY.
Stewart’s Shops is a chain of 348 convenient stores in 31 counties across Eastern New York and Southern Vermont. They are vertically integrated, operating with their own dairy and ice cream plants, commissary and warehouse. They distribute about 85% of the products you see in store. They employ approximately 5,000 employees in the Capital Region and have been in business as Stewart’s Shops since 1945. They ultimately got their start when Gary’s Great Grandfather and Great Uncle began making ice cream on their Saratoga County dairy farm in 1921.
While Stewart’s Shops has been a family business all these years, it’s becoming more of a “family and employee business”. While maintaining their family values and the benefits that come with it, they find it important to share ownership of the company with their employees. They offer an employee stock ownership plan for any employee who works 1,000+ hours/year, which has resulted in employees owning 40% of the shares with their retirement based on that stock. They currently have over 100 employees in that plan who are millionaires and many more who have more than a year’s salary with no contribution of their own.
Big on philanthropy, Stewart’s Shops hosts the Holiday Match program each year between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Considered one of their most rewarding programs, customers make donations at their local Stewart’s Shop which are then matched by the company, dollar for dollar, with no administrative costs. In 2020, Stewart’s Holiday Match raised over $1.88 million for children’s charities in the same communities serviced by their shops. In addition, Stewart’s Shops also gives an additional $2.5 million corporately over the course of the year, and 2 family foundations that donate $2.5 million each. Collectively, Stewart’s and the Dake Family are putting $7.5 million of charitable good into our communities every year, with a focus on smaller organizations.
Gary has been part of Stewart’s Shops since 1984. He was recently named to the Power 100 list and is often sought out by local media for his strong business acumen, leadership skills, and expertise in dairy, gasoline commerce and retail sales. Gary is on the Board of Directors of Saratoga National Bank and Arrow Financial Corporation. He is the immediate past Chairman of St. Peter’s Health Partners Board of Directors. When not in the office, Gary can be found on the golf course, baking bread or spending time with his family. Gary lives in Saratoga Springs with his wife, Aimee.
Listen to the full interview to learn more about Gary Dake and Stewart’s Shops, how they adapted to the pandemic and the importance of supporting local agriculture.
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