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DALLAS -- This year’s Convenience Store News Hall of Fame induction ceremony honored two industry executives known as much for their strong character as for their business achievements.
Bill Douglass, founder and CEO of W. Douglass Distributing Ltd., a full-line petroleum distributorship and operator of the 15-unit Lone Star Food Stores chain, and Steve Wolke, who retired this year from his position as vice president, trade relations for PepsiCo, were inducted into the Convenience Store Hall of Fame during a reception and dinner held Tuesday evening.
Douglass’ tireless efforts on behalf of the industry were cited in opening comments by Hank Armour, president and CEO of NACS, who is a CSNews Hall of Famer himself. Armour praised Douglass’ integrity and noted the long-time industry executive has a "soft heart," but could be "as hard as a diamond." Armour also praised Wolke as a friend of the convenience store industry and as someone whom retailers could always count on to do whatever it took to quickly solve their problems.
Accepting his award to a standing ovation, Douglass thanked his family, particularly his wife, Joan, who serves as the company’s treasurer; his daughter, Diane, who runs the retail operation; and his son, Brad, who oversees the wholesale division.
"They are the people who made it possible for me to spend the time on industry issues," the Hall of Fame inductee said, noting if it were not for his involvement with NACS, no one would have ever heard of Bill Douglass. "It was by working with the dynamic people in this room tonight that I was able to get support for our industry."
Noting Douglass learned the value of "doing things right" from his first paying job tending to the 20-acre grounds of a historic Pennsylvania church and cemetery, CSNews Editor-in-Chief Don Longo noted "doing right is now the foundation upon which Bill has built his own company—where a good attitude and impeccable morals are paramount not just for advancement, but for employment."
Wolke served the convenience store industry through his involvement in various councils and associations. He sat on the NACS board of directors from 1996 to 2008. "An interesting side note of this year’s induction is that Steve served as chairman of the NACS supplier board the same year that Bill served as the retailer chairman of NACS," said Longo. "So it’s appropriate that they would go into the Hall of Fame together."
Wolke described his years working in the convenience channel as a wonderful experience, comparing it to a fraternity. "Whenever I got on a plane to travel, I always felt like I was going to see friends," he said. "My job was the easiest job in the world. If a customer wanted to do business with us, it was my job to make it easy for them."
Borrowing a line from baseball great Lou Gering, who said ‘I’m the luckiest man on the face of the earth,’ Wolke said he felt the exact same way about his induction into the supplier Hall of Fame. "Ever since I got the call, I’ve been on cloud nine."
The induction of Douglass and Wolke brought out some of the top names in the convenience store industry, including 7-Eleven CEO Joe DePinto, Alon USA president Jeff Morris, Cumberland Farms chairwoman Lily Bentas, and E-Z Mart CEO Sonja Hubbard, who was recently elected as the first female chairman of NACS.
Other retailer attendees included Steve Loehr of Kwik Trip, Mary Szarmach of Smoker Friendly, and Steve Krumholz of Blockbuster Inc.
Rod Hamson, vice president, sponsor relations, Children’s Miracle Network, capped the evening by presenting the organization’s annual Retailer of the Year award to San Antonio-based Valero. The energy and convenience store company raised more than $7 million in support of children’s hospitals, said Hamson.
The Hall of Fame reception and dinner was sponsored by Armor Safe Technologies, BIC, Children’s Miracle Network, Hershey’s, Kraft, McLane Co., Pepsico, Philip Morris USA and Ruiz Foods.
For more on the Hall of Fame event, plus detailed profiles of the inductees, be sure to check out the December issue of Convenience Store News. Click here to see detailed biographies of both inductees.