The Everyman Operator

By
Mitch Morrison, Vice President & Group Editor

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Casually dressed and refreshingly approachable, Tom Robinson is not cut from a celebrity’s cloth. He sports neither a tan nor the muscle- bound hubris of a gym lifer. He’s a regular guy. And his stores are, in many respects, regular stores.

Truth be told, we trade magazines rarely feature guys such as Tom on the cover. We prefer flash, sizzle and controversy over smart, able and consistent. In our cover story, you will find no remarkable technology, no magical fuel, no latest environmental gadgetry.

What you will find is someone who truly represents the best our rank-andfile industry has to offer. Tom is highly principled. He is proud to be part of a family chain of petro jobbers and operators who has warmly ushered in the next line of Robinsons to perpetuate what is now a four-generation family enterprise.

For anyone who knows Tom, he is risk-averse, yet he competes effectively in arguably the most regulated state in the country.

So why feature Tom—and on our cover, no less? The answer to me is obvious.

Tom brilliantly captures the landscape of our industry, perhaps better than anyone I’ve met. He is engaged with his stores, his employees, his vendors and his customers. He is purposeful in balancing work and family, along with the tricky intersections of a family-owned business.

Much like Tom the person, his company, Robinson Oil, and its retail network, Rotten Robbie, are a true face of the c-store channel. The stores are well stocked, employees come from the neighborhoods they serve, and the stores capably meet the needs of thousands of diverse customers.

It is not surprising that for three decades, Tom has been the face of the independent gasoline marketer and the c-store operator. His opinions are balanced and thoroughly well reasoned. During our daylong interview, I was hard-pressed to catch an off-the-cuff response emanating from Tom’s mouth. This is why he has testified on behalf of both SIGMA and NACS before Congress, and why he has represented CIOMA before the California legislature. Lawmakers appreciate Tom’s sobriety, nuance and the need to strike a proper chord between regulation and free market.

Jeff Lenard of NACS nails it when asked what makes Tom special: “Tom is really a great ambassador for our industry, and he has really put a lot of heart into everything he does with NACS. If you know anything about Tom, he likes to take a step back and consider the entire situation when discussing an issue.”

We live in a sound-bite generation in which extremes across behavior, politics and religion dominate our media and masquerade as the norm. Tom is a refreshing reminder that it’s great to be good.

Personnel Moves

I’d like to introduce our newest editor. Melissa Vonder Haar has been freelancing for CSP for about a year and has shown to be an incredibly quick and perceptive student. She is what today’s journalism demands: a hybrid reporter, as adept with print as she is with online and social media. Melissa’s experience includes stints with both “SNL” and MTV, where she integrated TV content with social media. Some of you may know her as the daughter of Joe Vonder Haar of Anheuser-Busch. We love Joe and appreciate Melissa for her own unique skills and abilities.

I want to welcome two others. One is very well known, especially among fuel marketers. Carole Donoghue was the longtime star of Oil Express and began writing for CSP Daily News six months ago. She will be covering petroleum exclusively for CSP Daily News and CSP magazine. Carole is a tenacious reporter and tremendous talent.

A few months ago we announced a special internship program. We are thrilled with what Elliott Krause already has produced for our sister publication, Fare, and its e-newsletter, Fare Digest. Elliott is the son of Kum & Go’s Kyle Krause, and he is pursuing a master’s in writing. I encourage you to read his debut clip from last month: http://www.cspnet.com/news/foodservice/ articles/where-have-all-bagels-gone.

Lastly, I want to thank Linda Zid, who joined us nearly four years ago and matured into the best tobacco reporter in the c-store trade. Linda recently accepted a position outside of our industry, and we wish her the very best. 

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