Alton McEwen

Class of 1964

The 2006 Distinguished Alumnus Award is presented to Alton McEwen Class of 1964.

Growing up on a dairy farm in Ormstown, Quebec, provided a good foundation of basic skills for what would become a very successful career for Alton McEwen in the food business. His sense of timing, the importance of making hay while the sun shines, the need to get a job done and get it done well, the nature of a business, the essence of good inter-personal relations and above all, the critical role of good management can likely all be traced back to that farming experience.

Alton brought those basic skills to NSAC with him and reinforced them with technical and scientific knowledge, graduating with a diploma in agriculture in 1964. He later earned his Bachelor of Science in Food Management from Macdonald College of McGill University in 1966. With his bundle of knowledge and skills in hand, Alton then got on the fast track.

Upon graduation from McGill, Alton joined Ogilvie Flour Mills in Montreal as a Product Development Technician and later moved to Labatt's Food Service Division in 1968. Alton had a long and distinguished career with the Labatt Company, moving to Labatt's Consumer Products Division (Five Roses, Catelli, Habitant) in 1969 as Marketing Assistant, progressing through several positions to General Manager in 1980 all the while operating a hobby beef farming operation from 1974 - 1982.

In 1982, Alton moved from Montreal to Toronto as President of Laura Secord, a Labatt company which was later sold to Rowntree MacIntosh. He assumed the position of President Rowntree MacIntosh Canada (makers of Coffee Crisp, Kit Kat, After Eight, Black Magic, Laura Secord) in 1984.

In 1987 he joined Michael and Louis Bregman as Partner and President of “mmmarvellous mmmuffins”, and “michael's baguette” restaurants. He acquired Second Cup with the Bregmans and was named President in 1988. The company grew rapidly under his leadership expanding from 130 to 400 stores in Canada.

The company expanded into the US with the purchase of several companies there. Alton moved to California and assumed the position of Presidency and Chief Executive Officer of Second Cup's US subsidiaries, (Coffee Plantation, Gloria Jean's and Coffee People) which operated a combined 480 stores in the US. He then took took Gloria Jean's to international markets and it is now operating in 50 countries worldwide.

In 1999, the US companies were sold but Alton continued as executive consultant and director of Second Cup Canada. He assumed the position of Chief Executive Officer of Second Cup in 2000 and launched Second Cup in the Middle East. Second Cup was sold to Cara Operations in 2002 on the condition that Alton remain with the Company and manage it for two years. This Management Agreement was completed in 2004 and Alton now considers himself retired .

It appears, however that “retirement” for Alton is a partial concept. He has been appointed to Board of Director positions with Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee, the Vancouver based leader in chemical-free decaffeination and Distant Lands Coffee, which operates very high quality coffee farms in Costa Rica and a roasting plant in Texas. He is also on the Advisory Board of “Webloq”, a new Internet Security Company in California.

Presented by NSAC past principal Dr. Garth Coffin
October 21, 2006