ATLANTA — RaceTrac Petroleum Inc., which celebrates 85 years in business this year, has been in growth mode. It operates more than 500 convenience stores in Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Texas. In 2018, it announced its expansion into Tennessee, with plans to open its first c-store in Nashville in late 2019, and it opened its 500th location, in Hapeville, Ga., in December 2018. The company also said it plans to open 50 more c-stores in Middle Tennessee by 2023.
- RaceTrac is No. 16 in the Top 40 update to CSP's 2018 Top 202 ranking of c-store chains by number of retail outlets.
This growth, coupled with a desire to understand its customers’ needs, has triggered a round of management changes that brings new blood and ideas from the newer generations of the founding Bolch family.
Here are the details …
The Atlanta-based chain has promoted Max McBrayer, chief financial officer and chief supply officer, to CEO, succeeding Allison Moran, who stepped down as CEO in July 2017. President Billy Milam will transition to chief operating officer; Natalie Morhous, vice president of Energy Dispatch, has been promoted to president; and Robby Posener, vice president of marketing, merchandising, design and construction, will transition to vice president of RaceWay, the company’s approximately 250-unit franchised brand.
RaceTrac also has promoted Melanie Isbill, executive director of marketing, to chief marketing officer, and Bart Stransky to vice president of merchandising. J. Gilmore, vice president of RaceWay, strategy and solutions, will become vice president of Energy Dispatch and supply chain. And the company has promoted A.J. Siccardi from vice president to president of RaceTrac subsidiary Metroplex Energy, its wholesale fuel supplier.
Carl Bolch Jr. will return to his role as executive chairman. With these changes, Morhous and Isbill, Bolch's daughters—who are also members of RaceTrac’s board along with daughter Moran, son Jordan Bolch and wife Susan Bolch—take on roles that will ensure continued connectivity between family legacy and business priorities, the company said.
Natalie Morhous started her career in management consulting in Washington, D.C., before returning to business school. She studied marketing and strategic management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and interned at General Mills.
“I was fortunate enough to work on General Mills cereals, their biggest brands, and developing strategies for Walmart,” she said. “That experience really opened my eyes to retail for the first time. It’s one thing to get people to buy Cheerios. It’s another thing to get them to walk into Walmart to do it.”
After she graduated, she went to work for RaceTrac, leading the special projects department and focusing on strategy development, project management and innovation.
She then moved to Energy Dispatch, RaceTrac’s fuel transportation company, and focused on logistics. “The benefit there was really getting to dive deep into the fuel side of our business for the first time,” she said.
Melanie Isbill also went to Wharton. She started her career at Macy’s, doing product development for one of its private-label brands. “For me, the biggest takeaway from my time at Macy’s was the importance of targeting your consumer and understanding the consumer you’re targeting,” she said. “But Macy’s was a very big company, and that environment was not for me. My dad made a pitch to me about coming to work for him at RaceTrac in the fuel area, which was a very big shift from what I had studied. But I was looking for a challenge.”
She also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be mentored by her father while he was still involved in the business day to day. (Bolch was CSP’s2009 Retail Leader of the Year.)
“I did everything from inventory management to gasoline scheduling, gasoline trading and working with our drivers on planning loads. It was a really broad view of that side of the business,” she said. “But while I really enjoyed my time in the fuel side, and learned a lot, that wasn’t where my passion was. I really wanted to return to marketing and the retail side of the business. As CMO, my excitement is around an understanding of our consumer and how to leverage that in-store. I’m really looking forward to leaning in more heavily to that.”
Carl Bolch Jr.
Their father, Carl Bolch Jr., has been executive chairman since he retired as CEO in late 2013. He took a larger role in the day-to-day business after Moran stepped down as CEO in 2017.
“Inside the business, however, we have been without a CEO for about a year and a half,” Morhous said. “One of the things he recognized stepping into that role was that he quite literally is just not here all of the time, and our business is big enough and moving fast enough that we are in need of a day-to-day chief executive.”
McBrayer has been named CEO to fill that need at RaceTrac, she said. Bolch will remain executive chairman, “and in that role, he will be very involved in the long-term strategy for the business.”
“When Max took a look around and decided what he wanted his team to look like, he recognized that RaceTrac had gotten big enough and was growing fast enough that he wanted to expand the leadership team,” Morhous said. “I will be stepping in as president, and we will be expanding the team to also include Melanie and Billy as CMO and COO.”
Although RaceTrac has had a chief operating officer in the past, it does not have one now; Milam will now fill that role. The chief marketing officer title is new to the company.
Isbill will focus on understanding RaceTrac’s customers and how to maximize the store offer. Milam will focus on store growth and operations for RaceTrac and RaceWay.
“We believe RaceTrac has reached a size that our senior leadership team needs a little bit more focus and diversity of thought,” Morhous said.
“It’s exciting that two siblings get to work very closely together,” Isbill said. “Natalie and I share a similar vision for where we see the company going and feel that we can work really well together to help us get there.”