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CORONA, Calif. — Incoming NACS Chairman Jack Kofdarali, president of J&T Management, is an example of what can come from taking advantage of NACS’ events and educational opportunities, having attended many of them while building his career and expanding his business.
“I can share with full confidence how getting involved with NACS helps your own business, and how getting engaged in NACS government relations events can make a huge difference on the results that may impact us negatively,” Kofdarali said.
Since the day his family entered the convenience store industry with the purchase of a Calimesa, Calif., gas station in 1990, Kofdarali has had big ambitions, which led him to own and operate two dozen c-stores through his company J&T Management.
As he prepares to lead NACS as incoming chairman, though, Kofdarali is thinking small. “Having started as most immigrants with humble beginnings, and although we currently own and operate a couple of dozen stores, I still consider our company a small business,” Kofdarali told Convenience Store News. “My goal is to get many of our industry’s small-business operators more engaged.”
To accomplish this, he plans to use his own life story as an example, including how NACS helped him navigate the road from a single gas station to founding J&R Oil Co. and later J&T Management as the business grew and its interests diversified to include the development of commercial retail centers across Southern California, the ownership and management of apartments in Texas, and business operations oversight for c-store and fuel retailers.
Kofdarali credits the “brilliant” NACS team and the resources available at the NACS Show and throughout the year for helping him develop the skills to improve his business.
“I know it sounds cliché, [with] what NACS’ tagline is [Knowledge, Connections & Advocacy], but simply put, I started early on by having both my managers, myself and later my supervisors attending many of the educational sessions NACS offers,” he said. “I truly learned a lot from those, and I would actually have great takeaways and implement them at my stores.”
Educational sessions improved Kofdarali’s ability to manage inventory, finance his stores, make better acquisitions, and more. Plus, the individual connections he made at the NACS Show improved both his personal and professional life.
“Those same people who’ve since become great friends of mine took me in early on, invited me to come visit them, check out their larger operations, literally took the time to show me how they do things better. I took many of those ‘aha’ moments and implemented them in my own business,” he said. “We are truly blessed with such giving people in our industry. I know of no other industry where such retailers take the time to teach smaller retailers how to do it better.”
While Kofdarali is looking forward to spreading the message of how NACS can help retailers improve their business, he also believe it is important for them to recognize how getting involved with NACS and its government relations events can improve the c-store industry for everyone working within it — NACSPAC in particular.
“You really should know what a thrill it is for me when we visit Capitol Hill. As an immigrant myself, I view this as a privilege to be able to voice my opinion freely and be able to meet with my representatives and hope to educate them with the facts that will hopefully help protect our industry,” Kofdarali said. “I am so proud to be living in these wonderful United States. I consider myself to be truly blessed.”
The annual NACS Day on Capitol Hill stands out to Kofdarali as a prime opportunity to learn more about legislative matters that affect the industry and act on behalf of it.
“A few years ago, one of the L.A. representatives I met with turned out to have worked at an Arco ampm while she was attending USC, and as the largest ampm operator, we somehow connected. She was very engaged in our conversation and our issues,” he said. “I doubt she’ll ever cast a vote on an issue related to our industry without thinking of our meeting, which was set up and facilitated by the terrific NACSPAC staff.”
This kind of connection with the legislators who have power over the c-store industry will only become more important in the years to come, as the regulations that are regularly placed upon c-stores are one of the most important issues retailers face today, according to Kofdarali.
“The advice I have for retailers is join your fellow retailers with the help of NACS in fending off regulations through programs that NACS has, such as the ‘Day on the Hill’ and ‘In-Store,’ which educate our representatives, but also by educating retailers about how to maintain clean stores, as well as offering more healthy choices in their stores.”
As for c-stores themselves, Kofdarali predicts that as the foodservice category continues to evolve on multiple levels, consumers will come to see c-stores as more than the stereotypical destination for gas and cigarettes.
“Convenience stores are starting to be recognized by consumers as a destination for not only a quick indulgent snack fix, but for a healthy choice snack as well,” he said. “Five years from now, our industry may begin to be more and more frequented not only as a convenient stop for snacks, but hopefully for more lunch and dinner destinations.”