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Legacy Spotlight: Crews

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

By Rachelle Koenig, Pastorelle Marketing Group

This series aims to capture a moment in time, talking to airport concessionaires about how their lives and businesses are being transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic has hit airport concessionaires hard. Such is the case with Nick Buford Crews, CEO of Nicholas & Associates and Crews Hospitality, a minority-owned ACDBE, dual headquartered in Los Angeles and Atlanta. Until last week, Nick was overseeing 34 locations in four airports. With the drop in air traffic, he had to make the painful decision to close 29 locations, lay off a third of his workforce and furlough all but 40 of the rest of his employees. “We are trying to provide benefits to as many people as we can,” Nick says. Not an easy task when his company is still expected to pay rent on all of his locations and maintain relationships with his vendors. He and his remaining team are working to negotiate whatever they can to make sure he will be able to open up as many locations as quickly as possible whenever traffic returns. This is personal for Nick and so many other airport concessionaires like him. This is more than a business. It’s his family’s legacy. The history of the Crews family’s airport operations began when patriarch and Nick’s step-father, Bob Crews founded The Benjamin Company, Crews of California’s predecessor, in 1972 as the first minority-owned company in the U.S. to win an airport retail concessions bid as a Prime operator. Crews was also a pioneer in the ACDBE program. Crews of California expanded to operate proprietary and national brands in Seattle, Los Angeles, Atlanta and a number of other major airports. Nick’s parents encouraged him to think like an entrepreneur from an early age. The family dinner table was an incubator for business ideas and entrepreneurial lessons. The biggest lesson he learned is that your reputation is what makes people want to work with you and for you. As a result, he has tremendous respect and reverence for what it took for his parents to achieve success. He has carried their legacy forward by building on their 46 years of credibility in the industry, by working hard and delivering, and by investing in the people around him. He founded his own ACDBE-certified company, Nicholas and Associates and grew it by forming multiple joint venture partnerships in airports across the country. In December 2019, Nicholas and Associates partnered with his brother, Rob Crews, and two new small business entrants to airport hospitality in order to purchase Crews of California and all Crews affiliated companies with the intent of continuing the family’s success. He is hopeful and determined not to let this pandemic kill the dream his parents had for their children so he carries forward with a positive outlook on the future of the company and the industry. “We just need regulators to recognize that the concessions business channel within the Airport industry needs help too,” he highlights. “I am working with our airport partners and hope that our Congressional leaders will extend assistance similar to what they have been given.” Nick is working hard, sheltering in place and staying in touch with his team, despite many of them being furloughed. He has opted not to be compensated during this time and is focused on what the new normal will be—predicting how his business will need to change when all of his operations are up and running again. And when his employees are back to work. Every last one of them.

About the Author

Rachelle Koenig, Pastorelle Marketing Group

I’ll admit it. I’m a word nerd. I love arranging words to shape how people think about products and services and motivate them to take action. My 20+ years of experience across industries and technology platforms make me extremely adaptive. What’s more, my work ethic is old school. I take pride in what I deliver and getting it done on time and within budget. I’m also a people whisperer. You can drop me blind in any room and I’ll come out with a pile of business cards and a few new friends.

My work has appeared in Chicago Magazine, Chicago Baby Magazine, Naperville Magazine, Make It Better (formerly North Shore Magazine), TribLocal, Ledger Sentinel, Positively Naperville, and on Castle, the leading on-line resource for recognizing top hospitals and physicians.

Specialties: Campaign development; Creative solutions; Strategic planning and tactical execution; Reputation management; Crisis management; Writing for print, web, social and multimedia (including video scripts and ghost blogging), press releases, business documents and annual reports; Networking; Project and personnel management.

View Rachelle Koenig's LinkedIn here.

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