Today, I’m just writing a story that I like to tell for fun and to say farewell, nice job to Ron Shaick.
In 1980, my dad brought an Apple II+ home (48K of memory and a single 5 1/4 inch floppy disk drive) to do some spreadsheet work using VisiCalc (Dan Bricklin‘s concept), Excel’s great, great grandfather. I was 16 at the time, and this simple introduction was all that I need to find my passion in life. I loved to play games on the computer and my parents insisted that I balance my computer time with something productive. So I learned how to program the Apple in Pascal – a few game of course, something about dropping depth charges from a surface ship to sink submarines in a 48×32 graphics display.
In 1982, I was graduating high school and I had been accepted to the University of San Francisco; I was going to study mathematics and get very far away from home. I also always wanted to buy a motorcycle and was never allowed – probably related to my uncle loosing a leg in a motorcycle accident a few years earlier, or maybe my parents where just plain smarter than I was. In any case, I asked for permission again and again the answer was “no, too dangerous”. But this time, I was 18 and free. Right? Since I had earned money of my own, I proceeded to buy a brand spanking new Honda 400E low rider. Very sweet. My parents did not like that move at all and they decided that they weren’t going to pay for my reckless California escape plan. Oops, and there was no plan B as all my friends sailed off to college.
I found a job baking croissants for Au Bon Pain at Logan airport, starting at 4:30 AM. It was ok, even fun, riding my motorcycle to the airport early in the morning until about October. Wearing a snow suit in November was a bit of a bummer. I baked thousands of croissants and delivered product to 11 carts spread throughout airport terminals. The cart person would sign a delivery receipt and at the end of their shift, they would inventory their cart, count their money and bring their receipts back to the office. The office manager would reconcile inventory, cash and receipts by hand – a good amount of work, recounts, etc. I saw an opportunity to write some software – yes, Apple II+. I showed the software to my office manager, who liked it. She introduced me to Ron Shaick – the CEO of Au Bon Pain. Ron offered to buy the software for $1500 and even better, he wanted me to write software for their 5 stores. Let me see, work in an office during the warm portion of the day for $10/hour or continue that 4:30 AM motorcycle thing to earn $2.50/hour baking croissants. I shared an office with Ron in a 2500 square foot office space, writing accounting and inventory control software in Basic on an IBM System 23 as Au Bon Pain expanded their store footprint – Harvard Square, Fanueil Hall, The Burlington Mall, the Airport and Copley Square were their first store locations.
In the meantime, I did decide to get a bit more serious about going to college – but I was still a thick headed, motorcycle riding, financially strapped independent. So, I worked hard to get into the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in February of 1983. At the time, Ron was driving hard to build the Au Bon Pain’s empire – many stores were opening and he built a new factory, corporate office in the old navy yard in Boston. So, I had plenty left on my plate. Ron asked me to continue writing while in school, returning to Boston monthly to provide update and discuss new stuff – no high speed Internet in 1983. Again, a great deal for a college kid paying $2300/semester for school. This continued on for a few years – Au Bon Pain opened many, many stores throughout the US they needed more than a part-time college kid.
A few years ago, I searched for Ron and found that he was CEO of Panera Bread. Ron is a winner and a great CEO; He was smart in 1983, he worked very hard and he succeeded over and over again. It was a good experience to work with Ron, I learned many things. I probably should have stayed at Au Bon Pain rather than going to college. A few years ago, I bought some Panera stock and I keep fairly close tabs on the company. Earlier this year, Ron announced that he will retire in May. Wow, what a run!