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On Sept. 29, 1987, at the NACS Show in Toronto, Chester Cadieux became the first retailer inductee to enter the Convenience Store Industry Hall of Fame, sponsored by Convenience Store News.
As we reported then, it was a fitting tribute to the founder, president and chairman of then-248-store QuikTrip Corp., based in Tulsa, Okla. On that day, Cadieux, a man who had helped shape the convenience store industry for the previous 30 years, became the first in a long line of industry luminaries whose collective entrepreneurship, management style, vision and leadership have forged today's $574 billion convenience store industry.
On this, the 25th anniversary of the CSNews Convenience Store Industry Hall of Fame program, we thought it appropriate to pay homage to our previous inductees and recount some of the highlights of the past quarter-century history of the Hall of Fame program.
Here, we look back on the honorees from 1987 to 1991.
1987: Chester Cadieux, QuikTrip Corp.
"As one of the industry's founders and as leader of QuikTrip -- which enjoys a reputation as a chain with high standards and integrity -- Cadieux deserves this spot among the illustrious retailing deans of our time," wrote then-CSNews editor Denise Melinsky, comparing the convenience store leader to such retailing icons as Clarence Saunders, father of the modern supermarket, Stanley Marcus, the department store impresario, and Sam Walton, king of discount retailing.
Melinsky detailed many of Cadieux' accomplishments: he was the first to bring c-stores to Oklahoma and Iowa, and among the first to adopt self-serve gasoline, institute self-serve fast-food, brand products with a private label and test in-store automation.
At that first induction ceremony, dozens of QuikTrip employees watched Cadieux receive the honor. And, in typical humble fashion, Cadieux said only a few words of thanks before asking his colleagues to join him on the podium.
"This company is not me," he said. "This company is a whole bunch of people who have spent a whole lot of years here. They are the people who make the impact."
In the early years of the Hall of Fame, CSNews also honored pioneering supplier companies -- inducting Philip Morris Co. and McLane Co. into the supplier wing that first year.
1988: Charles Nirenberg, Dairy Mart Convenience Stores
The following year, more than 350 retailers and suppliers were on hand in Las Vegas when CSNews inducted Charles Nirenberg, chairman of Dairy Mart Convenience Stores Inc. of Enfield, Conn. Nirenberg, leader of a company with more than 1,180 stores, was recognized for many of the same people-oriented skills that Cadieux was cited for.
"This year's Hall of Famer," wrote CSNews editor Monica Battagliola, "has continued to extol his small-company philosophy of making people feel important while raising the fourth-largest c-store chain in the country."
Nirenberg's story was one of amazing ups and downs. In 1972, he sold his 37-store chain to Giant Stores for stock in that company -- becoming a paper millionaire in the process. A year later, Giant went bankrupt, making Nirenberg a paper pauper. Later that year, with a banker's support, he repurchased the c-stores from the bankrupt company. About 12 years later, his then 200-store Dairy Mart chain acquired the 740-store Lawsons in Ohio, Michigan Indiana, and Pennsylvania, followed by the acquisition of 370-unit Conna Corp. the next year.
"When we had 12 people working for Dairy Mart, we ran the company like a family," Nirenberg said at his induction ceremony. "Now, we have nearly 6,000 people -- and we run the company like a family."
The supplier Hall of Fame company that year was Frito-Lay, with Guy Ferri, national accounts manager of convenience store sales, accepting the award.
1989: Bob Seng, Busy Bee Food Stores
The 1989 class of inductees continued the Hall of Fame's string of people-oriented, committed and generous honorees. The retailer inductee, Bob Seng, founder of Busy Bee Food Stores in West Oneonta, N.Y., was described by the retailers who voted for him as "a very convenience-store-smart person. He knows what's happening all over the industry and is willing to share what he knows. He is the type of person who overcomes any obstacle in his way."
Seng's acceptance speech at the Hall of Fame reception in Boston dwelled on his gratefulness to others for helping him achieve so much personally and professionally in growing his 27-store chain. The former Shell Oil executive paid tribute to the "28 convenience store managers who have been with me anywhere from five to 15 years, and who continue to work with me with the greatest amount of dedication that has allowed me the freedom to do some of the things I've done."
Fellow New York State retailer, Kevin Noon of K&K Food Marts, proved prophetic when he said that when Seng chooses to retire, "he won't retire out of the industry -- he's completely committed."
Today, Seng continues to share in knowledge with small and single-store operators as president of Seng Management Co., based in Greenville, S.C.
The 1989 supplier inductee, Miller Brewing Co., was recognized by retailers for its generous support of the industry. One Midwestern retailer commented, "We have a lot of contests in our stores, and Miller representatives give us great support with prizes and promotional materials. They are always there remerchandising the coolers. They're just great."
1990: C. Alan Marsh, Marsh Village Pantries
More than 600 retailers and suppliers congratulated two convenience store trendsetters, C. Alan Marsh, president of Marsh Village Pantries, and Anheuser-Busch, as they were inducted into the Hall of Fame during the 1990 NACS Show in Dallas.
Marsh's 170-unit, Pendleton, Ind.-based chain was known for its commitment to foodservice and store automation. As a former chairman of the National Association of Convenience Stores, "he got results," said one retailer.
Said another: "He's creative and innovative and has very strong leadership and organizational skills. He does an excellent job of setting the standards for others within his organization."
Marsh paid tribute to his wife, Jan, and his company colleagues in his acceptance speech, saying, "Anytime you receive an award like this there are obviously a lot of people in the background."
Jack Higgins, vice president, trade sales development, accepted the award for supplier inductee Anheuser-Busch, which was recognized for its willingness to tailor advertising programs and displays to the c-store industry. Retailers also cited the St. Louis-brewer's stellar distribution network.
1991: John and Jere Thompson, The Southland Corp.
About 500 convenience store operators and suppliers turned out to celebrate the induction of John Thompson and Jere Thompson, co-vice chairmen of The Southland Corp., and Pepsi-Cola into the Hall of Fame in 1991.
Among the accomplishments of the Thompsons:
• They taught manufacturers to respect the convenience store industry as an important channel of trade;
• They introduced new products and services, many of which are now standard fare for the industry;
• They took a leadership role in key security studies and developed programs for the responsible sale of alcoholic beverages; and,
• They set high standards for the industry's participation in charitable causes.
Said one long-time c-store operator: "We owe a great deal to this family. All of us who followed are plagiarists to some extent."
Meanwhile, Pepsi-Cola was honored that year for its role in the creation of unique in-store promotions and its "professional, but friendly" route employees.