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Next month, many of the biggest names in the c-store industry will gather in Dallas to honor the newest inductees into the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame -- Bill Douglass, CEO of W. Douglass Distributing Ltd., the petroleum wholesaler and operator of 14-unit Lone Star Food Stores chain and Steve Wolke, the longtime industry relations representative for Frito-Lay/Pepsi.
Douglass' list of accomplishments and his service to benefit the c-store industry could fill this entire column. He's past chairman of the general committee of state relations at the American Petroleum Institute and past chairman of NACS: the Association of Convenience and Petroleum Retailing. He has been a tireless fighter on critical c-store industry issues, speaking before Congress about unfair credit card transaction fees and anti-price gouging bills. For 25 consecutive years he received the Exxon Excellence Award given to the top Exxon-branded distributors. But for all his accomplishments, Douglass is just plain "good people."
"We start out taking care of each other inside the company and it carries over to other activities," said Douglass in an interview with CSNews earlier this year. That attitude typifies the value system of the company, where employees, customers and vendors are all treated like family.
I'm sure Douglass' own family members -- wife, Joan, who serves as treasurer of the company; son, Brad, who is president of the petroleum wholesaling division; and daughter, Diane, president of Lone Star Food Stores -- are proud and excited about Bill's induction.
Douglass certainly will be joining a distinguished "family" of previous Hall of Fame inductees, including last year's honoree Alain Bouchard of Alimentation Couche-Tard, William Krause of Krause Gentle Corp., James Keyes of 7-Eleven Inc. and Hank Armour, founder of West Star Corp. and current NACS president.
Like many of our previous Hall of Fame inductees, Douglass' life is an inspiring rags to riches story. Douglass' first paying job was digging graves and mowing the lawn at a historic church in rural Pennsylvania for 60 to 70 cents an hour at the age of 14. That background of hard work surely paid off for the future entrepreneur as he graduated college and then served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps before going to work for Esso for 21 years in various capacities. Then in 1981, rather than accept an overseas assignment, he became an Exxon-branded distributor after taking over a distributorship in Sherman, Texas, comprised of six service stations and some rural commercial accounts.
Today, his company is an ExxonMobil On The Run franchisor and a Shell, Fina and Valero marketer, as well as a franchisee of Burger King, Subway, Church's Chicken, Stuckey's and Dickey's Barbecue Pit.
Joining Douglass in the spotlight will be Wolke of Frito-Lay/Pepsi, who was selected for induction into the Supplier wing of the CSNews Hall of Fame, by the same 40-member Blue Ribbon panel of industry peers and past inductees -- one of whom commented on his ballot that "I'd give him [Wolke] 10 votes if I could."
The well-known trade relations executive joins past supplier honorees, including Tom Trader of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., William Laufer of Anheuser-Busch, Jerry Rose of McLane Co. and Joe Burke of Coca-Cola.
I am pleased and honored to congratulate both Douglass and Wolke for this recognition of their innovation, leadership and service to the c-store industry. The 2008 CSNews Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held Oct. 28, in Dallas.