Before a convenience retail gathering at NACS Show 2021, Yesway founder and CEO Tom Trkla thanked the industry for its gracious attitude and cooperative spirit.
CStore Decisions honored Texas-based convenience store chain Yesway as its 32nd Chain of the Year during a Wednesday, Oct. 6, reception at the National Association of Convenience Stores Show (NACS) in Chicago.
CSD Editor-in-Chief John Lofstock explained that while many industry awards are focused on chain size and store counts, he stressed that CSD’s Chain of the Year is based simply on honoring excellence.
“Through a deadly pandemic, supply shortages and staffing issues,” said Lofstock, addressing the assembled members as well as the convenience store industry in general, “the one thing our nation could count on is the that lights were always on at your stores.”
Lofstock praised Yesway for its retail excellence and growth, strong loyalty program, private-label portfolio and community involvement, as well as its acquisition of Allsup’s and maintaining that chain’s signature strengths. Today, including its Allsup’s stores, Yesway operates 403 stores in nine states.
“Yesway, by industry standards, is a relative newcomer as a retail brand,” said Lofstock. “But from an experience and execution standpoint, it ranks right up there with the best the industry has to offer.”
Accepting the Award
Lofstock then introduced Greg Parker, founder and CEO of Parker’s, the 2020 CStore Decisions Chain of the Year. “I think it’s extraordinary that you reached this milestone in just six years,” Parker said about Yesway and the Chain of the Year honor, before presenting this year’s award trophy to Yesway Chairman and CEO Tom Trkla.
Trkla thanked CStore Decisions and the evening’s sponsors, and then praised his Yesway team, saying the Chain of the Year recognition is truly a tribute to everyone working at Yesway. “It is beyond humbling to stand here today amongst all of you – the best of the best in our industry,” said Trkla.
He spoke of how, before launching Yesway, he and others on the investment team visited more than 350 c-stores to learn best practices from successful retailers. He said they made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot along the way about what types of stores they wanted to run and which places they wanted to do business.
“I’ve never met an industry that is so gracious in sharing its knowledge and experiences as this industry,” said Trkla. “It really is truly amazing to me.”
Yesway’s Quick Rise
In naming Yesway Chain of the Year earlier this year, CStore Decisions cited how the retailer burst onto the scene in 2015 as a chain focused on retail excellence and growth. When it acquired Allsup’s in 2019, Yesway tripled its store count and then raised $235 million of capital to invest in its raze-and-rebuild efforts.
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the chain pushed through numerous retail improvement projects, all while promoting its Hospitality Heroes program to recognize and honor the service and commitment of its essential worker team members on the frontline in all of its stores.
Brookwood Financial Partners, the Boston-based private equity firm, founded Yesway in 2015, to own, operate and grow its convenience stores and looks forward to continuing to strengthen its brand. The Fort Worth, Texas-based company has built its footprint to include 402 stores across nine states: Texas, New Mexico, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Nebraska.
CStore Decisions began recognizing its chain of the Year in 1990 to showcase the best of the best in convenience retailing. That first chain to earn the award was Wawa Inc. Past winners of the prestigious award include Sheetz, Maverik, RaceTrac, 7-Eleven Inc., Krause Gentle Corp., Alimentation Couche-Tard, QuikTrip, Rutter’s and Family Express.
The NACS Show 2021 began Tuesday, Oct. 5, and runs all week through Friday, Oct. 8, at Chicago’s McCormack Place convention facility