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    Alain Bouchard, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.

    Alain Bouchard is chairman, president and CEO of Alimentation Couche-Tard, the largest chain of company-operated convenience stores in North America. Launched with just one store in 1980, Couche-Tard now operates more than 5,400 convenience stores in the U.S. and Canada under the Couche-Tard, Mac's and Circle K banners. Bouchard was inducted in the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame in 2007.

    When and why did you first join the convenience industry?
    It was at the end of the '60s. My brother was then operating a convenience store as a dealer for a local company here in the Montreal (Quebec, Canada) area. As my brother and his wife needed help and a break, I joined them.

    What made you stay?
    My first contact with the public: a new experience for me and my reaction was unexpected. I was really enjoying meeting and providing customer service to new and regular customers on a daily basis.

    What is the most remarkable thing you've experienced, seen or learned while in the industry?
    It was in my early days in the business, when I realized how much people were willing to visit small retail boxes for their convenience needs. It was definitively an eye opener to me.

    Describe one of the funniest things you've seen in the industry over the years.
    Back in the early days, I was responsible for the new stores openings and we were giving away gallons of milk to the first 500 customers. It was very exciting to me as an operator and to our employees to see people waiting for the opening of the store. To avoid traffic congestion, we eventually had to split the free gallons of milk in the first three days.

    In what ways has the industry changed during your time that you didn't anticipate?
    Certainly the fuel twinning with the convenience store (Now you can figure out my age).

    What has been the biggest change you have seen in the industry since you started?
    Other than twinning with fuel, it is certainly the efforts that we are doing as an industry to be good in the foodservice.

    What do you miss most from the early days of the industry?
    What I miss the most is the daily contact with our customers.

    What c-store product (from past or present) do you like the most?
    A cup of good Circle K, Couche-Tard and Mac's coffee.

    What c-store product (from past or present) do you dislike the most?
    The ice salt because it means that we have really bad weather conditions.

    What is the most interesting c-store name you've seen over the years?

    What is the most important event to happen in your career? How has that impacted your current role?
    My first acquisition of an existing convenience store. It was a success and it paved the road for a long successful journey.

    Which business person in the industry do you most admire?
    I have never personally known the founder of 7-Eleven, Mr. Joe C. Thompson. However, I believe everyone in the industry owes him a big thank you for the innovative thinking and creativity he has shown, being the first entrepreneur in our great industry, in inventing what we have become today.

    Do you have a memory or fun anecdote to share? Visit the Spare Change blog section dedicated to the past 40 years in convenience retailing by clicking here.

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