ATLANTA — Twelve years after the late Chester Cadieux II, co-founder of QuikTrip Corp., was honored as CSP’s Retail Leader of the Year, the industry returned to celebrate the next generation of company leadership.
About 300 attendees gathered at the Omni Atlanta at the CNN Center in October to celebrate Chester’s son and QuikTrip’s chairman and CEO, Chester “Chet” Cadieux III. Chet was joined by about 50 QuikTrip employees from the company’s leadership team and from stores in the Atlanta area.
Under Chet’s leadership, the chain has grown to more than 800 stores and more than 24,000 employees, expanded into new markets and ratcheted up its foodservice offer. This marks the third year in a row that CSP has recognized a leader of a family-run chain with its Retail Leader of the Year award. The other recent recipients were 2018 honoree Kyle Krause, chairman and CEO of Kum & Go LC, Des Moines, Iowa; and 2017 Retail Leader Ari Haseotes, director, president and CEO of Cumberland Farms, Westborough, Mass. (which recently was acquired by EG Group.)
The 2019 award, accepted by Chet on behalf of QuikTrip, also recognized his philanthropy, professional success and devotion to QuikTrip employees.
‘Grow and Succeed’
Attendees celebrated Chet’s 17 years of leading QuikTrip with a cocktail reception, dinner and awards ceremony. Festivities began with special remarks from Steve Sheetz, former chairman of Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz Inc. and a member of the QuikTrip board of directors. He praised Chet’s leadership, humility and desire to see his employees succeed, both at work and personally.
“It seems like only yesterday I was here presenting this to your father,” Sheetz said to Chet.
“Not wanting to be recognized is one of many traits he shares with his father,” Sheetz continued. “Another trait they share is a sincere interest in seeing their people grow and succeed.”
Mitch Morrison, Winsight’s vice president of retailer relations, shared an anecdote with attendees about QuikTrip’s charitable heart. He recounted that, following the turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., five years ago after a police officer fatally shot an African-American man, the city erupted in protests and violence, during which a local QuikTrip store was looted and burned. Not only did QuikTrip provide employees there with counseling services and jobs at other locations, but it also donated the store’s land to the Urban League of St. Louis. The former site of the convenience store has been replaced with the Ferguson Community Empowerment Center, where young men and women receive career training, health services and education.
The main event of the evening was a special video featuring interviews with QuikTrip employees and Chet’s colleagues from inside and outside of the convenience industry. Perhaps its most memorable message was from Chester, taken from an earlier interview.
“We believe in being the best at everything we do,” Chester said. “It’s not just a slogan. We do everything we can to achieve that goal. We want to do the right thing. It’s a moral statement and we do our best to live by it. Is it ethical? Is it moral? Can we be profitable?”
During the video, a range of QuikTrip employees from part-time clerks to executives described Chet as down to earth, approachable and devoted to QuikTrip’s employees.
“I started back in 2006. I was getting out of college and needed a job,” said Tulsa store manager Amanda Wynn. “My sister had worked at QuikTrip for a year prior, too, and convinced me to come and work at QuikTrip. I replied, ‘I’m not going to work at a gas station.’ She implied from that day on that it’s more than a gas station. It’s so different. And now I’m a store manager. I have been one for six years and I love it just as much today as I did back then. And my sister was correct: It is so much more than just a gas station.”
Mike Thornbrugh, manager of government and public affairs for QuikTrip, spoke about Chet’s ability to always be the first to show comfort and “share tears” with anyone in the QuikTrip family having a tough time. The video also highlighted QuikTrip’s dedication to giving back to its communities through its work with Folds of Honor, the United Way and Safe Place.
“This is really all about my dad and the amazing people he brought to this company. ”
Folds of Honor is a national organization that raises money to provide scholarships to families left behind whenever a member of the U.S. armed services is killed in the line of duty. Lt. Col. Dan Rooney, founder and CEO of Folds of Honor, spoke in the video about Chet and QuikTrip’s critical support, which goes way beyond the $10 million the chain has donated.
“I started Folds of Honor in my garage a couple of miles from the QuikTrip headquarters,” Rooney said. “Who knows where we’d be, but I guarantee we wouldn’t be where we are without Chet—without QuikTrip—and the awesome team that has gotten behind and stood with Folds of Honor from the very beginning.”
The video also touched on QuikTrip’s work with Safe Place, an organization that works to connect homeless and at-risk children with help. Nearly 600 children sought safety at QuikTrip stores last year.
The evening ended with Chet accepting the Retail Leader of the Year award. Customarily, he focused the attention on others in his brief remarks.
“Before I get started, I would just really appreciate it if we could have a round [of applause] for my dad,” Chet said, trying to hold back tears.
He then asked that all QuikTrip employees in attendance stand during his remarks, both to honor them and poke fun at them.
“This is really all about my dad and the amazing people he brought to this company. Some of those people are standing in this room,” he said.
“On behalf of the 23,000 men and women of QuikTrip, I accept this award,” Chet said. “My guys and gals are retail leaders, and I sincerely thank you for recognizing them as such.”