BRADENTON -- Conrad Szymanski graduated from college on a Friday and started work full-time in retail the following Monday.
That was more than 35 years ago.
Friday, the 60-year-old president of Bealls and Burke's Outlet Stores announced his retirement, effective Oct. 5.
"I had a good run and I've enjoyed success," said the 1976 University of Kentucky graduate. "But it's a demanding job and I wanted to leave while I still have the energy and passion to put in the 55- to 60-hour work weeks."
Dave Alves will succeed Szymanski as president effective Oct. 1, and report directly to Bealls Inc. CEO Steve Knopik.
Szymanski joined Bealls in 1979 and has served in numerous roles over the last 33 years.
"So many people in retailing are specialized -- finance. merchandising, advertising, etc.," Knopik said. "Conrad is one who, over his career, has spent time in each function, and as a result his talents are broadly based -- and his understanding of the business and all its aspects is very hard to replace. And he's one of the most hard-working, determined people you'll meet."
Szymanski delivered 17 years of comparable store sales gains in his 12 years as Beall Department Store
president and his five years as Beall's Outlet Store president.
Among the hallmarks of his management style were intelligence, business instincts and judgment, immense capacity for work and his determined leadership in multiple areas of the business.
"It's been rewarding," said the Gilbertsville, Ky., native. "When I started with Bealls, it was just a small company with 18 stores with $30 million annual sales. Now we're over 500 stores with $1.4 billion in annual sales. The growth, the change, the success have kept me energized."
Szymanski became president of Bealls Outlet Stores Inc. in July 2007, taking over for Paul Galizia, a longtime company official.
While he has not formally announced his plans for the future, he wants to travel and has hinted he'll possibly launch a second career in a business other than retailing.
"You don't have time to think about what's next, but by the first of year I'm sure to have plans," Szymanski said.
"I know I'm really looking forward to Christmas without the pressure of working during December."
Alves is from Canada and has worked for 14 years with Hudson's Bay Co. and seven years with TJX Companies. Most recently he was the president and CEO of Sterling Shoes, a Vancouver-based footwear retail chain with 160 stores across Canada.
"Dave's breadth of experience, including the accelerated growth of the TK Maxx/Home Sense chain into Europe, his understanding of merchandising and his passion for the off-price business model make him a great choice for this important role," Knopik said.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix