An Appreciation: Fred DeLuca
An Appreciation: Fred DeLuca

The Subway co-founder had a great personal touch.

Fred DeLuca is gone.

The death of the Subway co-founder will leave a hole in the franchise industry, business world — and surely in the hearts of many.

I have heard many DeLuca stories — the good (which helped 1851 gladly put him on the cover of our second International Franchising Association print issue), the bad and the ugly. For me, though, my experience was quite influential.

It was at one of my early IFA annual conferences. I was standing alone in our booth when franchise attorney Harold Kestenbaum walked over and said he would like me to meet someone — Fred DeLuca.

In typical situations, I would be the one asking the questions, with the person more interested in telling me about him or her. This was different. For the next 45 minutes, Fred asked about me, how I was planning on winning as a supplier within the very “old boys club” IFA, and lastly, what I could do for him, at Subway, with social media. At that point (2009, I believe), we were still the only company focused on social media, especially within franchising. I told him what I would do differently, how I could protect the Subway name, and navigate them through upcoming crisis situations. He said he loved it.

We ended the conversation with DeLuca saying he wouldn’t give me a business card, because he didn’t have one. He said to simply email him on the same day each month until he replied, and at that point he would be ready to hire No Limit Agency to handle Subway’s social.

I emailed on the same day, each month, for two years without a reply. I assumed that meant he wasn’t interested.

Still, that moment was highly valuable for me — as an icon in the industry took interest in my thoughts. That moment gave me confidence that I had a chance. And at the very least, if that’s all that came from that meeting, that’s fantastic. It was just the momentum I wanted and, frankly, the boost I needed.

When we put DeLuca on the cover of 1851’s second print issue, that moment propelled the cover decision. And at this year’s IFA convention committee meeting (not knowing the severity of his illness), I suggested DeLuca keynote the next convention.

Every entrepreneur has his or her bad days (actually, not just entrepreneurs, everyone). DeLuca’s worst was Sept. 14, his final day — and the world will no longer know how he battled the worst and the best.

I am sure many have similar stories of Fred. Memories are what keep the spirit alive.

Fred, thanks for the moment forever etched in my life. RIP.