Sit at Our Thanksgiving Table

By  Joe Vonder Haar, Co-Founder, iSee Store Innovations

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As we recover from the annual gathering of leadership of the c-store industry, a time of reflection is called for as we head into the holiday season. As my family gathers around the Thanksgiving table, I find there is much to be thankful for. 
 
My wife, Lisa, is finally recovered from her knee replacement, and all three of my daughters have found significant happiness in their lives. Melissa is now engaged to be married, and she continues to grow as a professional writer. Elizabeth finished her residency in obstetrics and gynecology and has been volunteering at a clinic in Haiti before she heads to Anchorage to begin her medical practice. Jessica has joined iSee as general manager and is learning this business from the ground up. For me personally, I’ve fully postponed retirement—iSee recently celebrated its third year in business, as did my band, Barley Alive. There is much to be grateful for.  
 
Imagine if we could go around a Thanksgiving table of c-store suppliers, with each taking a moment to verbalize what they are grateful for about this industry. After I reached out to key industry leaders, this virtual table produced a cornucopia of grateful supplier feedback. 
Let’s go around the table.  
 

Business Thanks

Lisa Austin from Oberto earned the leadoff spot by being the first responder: “I am thankful for the way the c-store industry embraces the underdog. C-stores might be small (in square footage) but they are mighty in entrepreneurial spirit and roll-up-your-sleeves determination.”  
 
Tom Joyce of Hershey is thankful for how c-stores have “helped grow core brands and provided a venue to help introduce new items to the consumer.” Opportunity is created for supplier and retailer alike, he says, in that “the majority of products that we sell in convenience stores are (high retail margin) single-serve products.”
 
Tony Gaines from Anheuser-Busch is thankful for “the opportunity to highlight our brands where the consumer goes every day. We have an opportunity to reach someone up to three times a day, [and] other channels cannot say that.” 
 
Kevin Martello says the Dr Pepper/Snapple “organization is thankful to the c-store industry for the many opportunities each and every retailer affords us daily. Brands matter, and we work hard to earn the retailer’s respect and trust.”
 
Beth Jarocki from Kraft Foods is thankful that the “c-store channel gives us the opportunity to reach men, millennial and Hispanic consumers to a much greater degree than in other channels.”  
 

A Personal Note

Going back around the table, our supplier friends acknowledge the personal nature of this business. Kevin gives thanks for an “industry that collaborates with one another and their suppliers” that “not only make their businesses better but the industry as a whole better. This drives better results for all of us while forming long-term relationships.”
 
Beth is “most grateful for the network of customers and colleagues who have helped me over the years,” pointing out that “relationships [are] the foundation for doing business.”
 
Tony is thankful for “the friendships, mentors and what is now family within the channel. Whether you’re a CEO, owner or a local key account manager, we all have the same goal of being better, wanting better in all that we do.” When all is said and done, he says, “I will have met and become friends with the best people in the industry.”  
 
Lisa is “most thankful for the business lessons that this channel continues to teach me every day and for the wonderful people on both the supplier and retailer side that I have come to call friends.” 
 
Tom concludes with a long-term perspective: “I have grown up with the c-store industry. The thing that is amazing to me is how the industry has grown over the years, and today we have best-in-class retailers. I am grateful for the relationships that I have developed with retailers, wholesalers and fellow suppliers.”
 
With one last look around our table, you can’t help but smile, knowing that this is a great industry and grateful community that we are all blessed to be a part of. Amen!
 
Now, can you please pass the pumpkin pie?

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