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Mike Smith began working as a gas attendant and then a store manager for Gastown as a means to get through school. Unexpectedly, these jobs turned into a career that's spanned 26 years and counting. Smith has served Speedway SuperAmerica, which acquired Gastown, as a district manager for convenience stores; district manager for the chain's branded foods operation; an associate category manager in food marketing; a division foodservice trainer; and currently, a Fresh from the Oven project team member.
These days, he heads up the training for Fresh from the Oven, a new food program that's being rolled out to the entire Ohio market. Smith also conducts scope tours to determine what stores are a good fit for the offering, and after stores go live, he goes back and checks that the construction and program execution are exactly as they should be.
To do the job well, Smith says one needs food knowledge, a deep passion and the ability to have fun. "It can be a little exhausting at times when you're doing three training classes a day. You can get pretty run down. You've got to like what you're doing. And I do."
In his free time, Smith enjoys running and rooting for his favorite college sports teams.
Lloyd Hudson had planned to pursue an advanced degree in psychology until a chance meeting with Speedway SuperAmerica at a Columbus, Ohio, job fair changed his mind. Impressed by the attractive compensation offered and opportunity for advancement, Hudson joined the retailer as a store manager in 2003 after graduating from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, with a psychology major and business minor.
He managed several stores in the Columbus market and was then promoted to a district manager in 2006. Last year, Hudson moved to corporate, joining the marketing department in his current role as associate category manager of general merchandise.
His responsibilities include buying for consumable and nonconsumable categories, such as confections, meat snacks, frozen foods, grocery, health and beauty care, and automotive. He's also in charge of creating and implementing promotional strategies in the stores, and serving as a liaison between the company and manufacturers. The biggest challenge, he says, is finding a middle ground that benefits SSA and its vendor partners.
Lucky for Hudson, he has his psychology skills to draw upon when negotiating. "That's helped me a lot in working with others and understanding what motivates people."
Jim Gabriel, manager of corporate maintenance and store support at Speedway SuperAmerica, started his career with the company 26 years ago as a store manager in the Indianapolis market before becoming a district manager in 1985. The next 15 years had him managing several districts, and he has also served as a division safety and security manager, division operations coordinating manager and as a category manager in marketing. He began his current position last year and is now part of the company's Engineering Services Group, which is responsible for the stores' maintenance, construction, environment and purchasing. Additionally, he manages the store support department with 90 employees reporting to him. He reports to Scott Hiser, manager of engineering services.
Gabriel doesn't have a college degree and uses himself as an example of what other employees can accomplish without one. "I’ve had the opportunity to speak at a lot of manager classes and tell them even a guy like me who doesn't have a degree can do well here. It's all available to them if they are willing to work hard," he said.
His favorite part of the job is the people because he "works with a great group and everyone has the same goal in mind," he said. While the main goal of store support is to make sure the store managers are getting what they need, he says his least favorite part of the job is when something is beyond the team's control. "I don't like to leave a store out there hanging," he said.
The three skills he feels are required for his job are leadership, accounting knowledge and innovative thinking.
Jim Humphrey has been with Speedway SuperAmerica for more than 18 years. He is originally from Martinsville, Ind., where his mother owned and operated a single convenience store. "I labored away in her store from the age of 11, so I guess the business stuck with me," Humphrey said.
Upon graduation from Purdue University with an MBA in industrial management, Humphrey entered SSA's district manager training program. In 1990, he moved over to headquarters where he served in a variety of positions, including light product pricing (gasoline and diesel), associate category manager in marketing, planning and analysis and foodservice marketing. Prior to his move to operations planning, he served as SSA's customer relationship manager for more than three years. In that position, Humphrey was involved in developing and implementing SSA's heralded Speedy Rewards loyalty program.
So, having worked in both operations and marketing, which does he prefer? "I like both, but I am happy to be on the operations side. I've found that the knowledge of what it's like to work in a store is critical to fulfilling expectations in a staff job."
Humphrey is married and has two daughters, ages 9 and 6. His free time is currently filled with his family and a do-it-yourself project: finishing his basement.
While many would argue Christi Frizzell's 13 years with Speedway SuperAmerica have been an unusual career path, she believes her experience is typical for the company. After graduating from college with a degree in zoology, she joined SSA as a store manager on the suggestion of a friend. She moved up the ranks into the corporate office, working in the pricebook department, foodservice, advertising and even as the category manager for merchandising and the associate category manager for noncarbonated beverages.
One year ago, she was promoted to her current role, and believes her zoology background helps in some aspects of the job, because a background in science and math taught her to test, measure and learn from the results, she said.
One thing she loves about SSA is the openness. "It's not hard to get an audience and discuss issues with people," she said, noting much of the company has an open door policy and everyone is approachable.
Her favorite part of the job is the multitasking and little downtime between projects. "We have our hands in a lot of things at one time," she said, noting her team sees a lot of big projects come to fruition.
Jeff Fehrman, category manager of advertising and promotions for Speedway SuperAmerica, boasts the record of being the second-most longstanding employee of the company's marketing division. His 18 years with the company started when he joined as a senior designer in the graphics department. It was his first in-house position. Prior to that, he worked at agencies, and was a principal at a communication studio in Dayton, Ohio.
He believes store level communications are "one of the most valuable advertising mediums we have," and stresses the theory of "less is more" in his projects. But with the large amount of information that needs to be communicated at the store level, it can get to be a tough job, he explained.
Working with SSA has afforded him "the ability to stick with a discipline [he] loves and stay with the company," he said, noting it is unique for a company to present such opportunities to its employees.
"I'm able to use my talents within the field I've chosen, but instead of bouncing from product to product as at an advertising agency, it's within one product -- Speedway SuperAmerica," he explained. "To do advertisements and care about that one thing is better."
Matt Green was born in Watertown, N.Y., and grew up in Cincinnati. He worked in both the restaurant industry, with Olive Garden and Red Lobster, and the supermarket industry, with Meijer, but all that time he was gaining payroll experience doing payroll for his uncle's business. Nine years ago, he joined Speedway SuperAmerica as a division payroll coordinator. He served in a number of roles within the payroll and personnel administration area before moving into his current position as manager of the department.
"SSA has treated me very well. I've received four promotions in nine years," said Green, who said he appreciates the company's openness. "You can talk to Tony (Kenney). It's a very open and fair company."
Green is married with two children, a 12-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. In his spare time, he enjoys camping. This summer, he and his family are planning a mission trip to an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico. He's previously taken three trips to the Gulf region to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. "The devastation, even today, is horrible. Pictures don't do it justice," said Green of the region, which still needs a lot of help to recover from the 2005 killer hurricane.
Mark Keller, manager of IT services, c-store technologies, has been employed by Speedway SuperAmerica for almost 26 years. He started in the information technology (IT) department for Marathon Pipeline, then served 12 years in IT services for Marathon Oil Co. and two years in IT at the Garyville Refinery.
"SSA has been a good place to work," he said. "It is both challenging and fast-paced."
In 1999, Keller joined SSA's IT services group in support of the company's infrastructure, and for the past three years, he has been involved in point-of-sale (POS) development, currently leading the POS projects for the company. While he has 16 employees directly reporting to him, he reports to Mark Inkrott, vice president of information technology services.
Keller, who was born and raised in Pittsville, Wis. (pop. 700), currently lives in Tipp City, Ohio, with his wife and daughter. His favorite part of the job is "the pace of working in a retail organization. There is always a lot going on, and it is never dull." His least favorite is that there is "always more work to do that we are not able to get to."