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MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada -- This year's Convenience Store News Hall of Fame induction ceremony had an international flavor, as retailers and suppliers gathered here in this bilingual city to honor two of the industry’s most respected leaders.
Alain Bouchard, chairman, president and CEO of Alimentation Couche-Tard, the largest chain of company-operated convenience stores in North America, and Tom Trader, former trade relations director for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., were inducted into the 21st annual Hall of Fame during a reception and dinner held earlier this week.
In front of his family, friends and colleagues, Bouchard characterized the honor as "the ultimate accolade. This is truly a highlight in my career, and in an industry I love," he said during his acceptance speech. Noting that it was just one year after CSNews made its first Hall of Fame induction in 1987 that Couche-Tard was making its initial public offering. Bouchard added, "I never imagined I’d join such an elite group."
Launched with just one store in 1980, Couche-Tard now operates more than 5,600 c-stores in the U.S. and Canada under the Couche-Tard, Mac's and Circle K banners.
While noting that Bouchard attributes much of his success in the convenience industry to the fact that he started his career working at the store level, CSNews Editor-in-Chief Don Longo applauded the honoree's motivational skills and predicted that the company he founded has "lots more expansion planned in the years ahead."
Bouchard did say that Couche-Tard expected to add 200 to 300 more U.S. stores next year, mostly by acquisition, and admitted those figures are probably conservative.
Tom Trader, a 33-year veteran of R.J. Reynolds, was also inducted into the supplier wing of the Hall of Fame. Trader retired in 2005 and joined Corporate Creative Connection, a consulting firm created by his longtime friend and business partner, Mickey Jones.
In accepting his award, Trader cited the support he received from his former RJR colleagues and the love of his family as the main reasons he was standing there. "When CSNews called, I was very much caught off guard. It was the first time in a long time that I was speechless," he said. "Then, I called my partner and it was the first time he was speechless. This is a tremendous honor, and it means a lot to me."
Real Plourde, one of Bouchard's partners in founding Couche-Tard and currently the company's executive vice president and COO, accepted the Children's Miracle Network's Retailer of the Year award in recognition of the retailer's support of the charity.
The Hall of Fame reception and dinner was sponsored by Anheuser-Busch Inc., Children's Miracle Network, The Coca-Cola Co., The Hershey Co., McLane Co. Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Ruiz Foods.
For more on the Hall of Fame event, plus detailed profiles of the inductees, check out the Dec. 10 issue of Convenience Store News.