CHICAGO — The convenience-store industry lost a familiar face this week when Michael Zielinski died Nov. 20 following a fight with cancer.
Zielinski, 61, was a former retailer, a longtime industry supporter and a mainstay at many industry events, often leading social outings or finding opportunities to play the drums with a house band.
“I believe everyone agrees: Mike was a giving soul and a friend to NACS,” Michael Davis, vice president of member services for NACS, told CSP Daily News. “He was both a retailer and a supplier, and he understood the needs of both. He related to the independent retailer community and their needs and helped champion programs that were beneficial to them.
“Mike was a NACS Supplier Board member and always, always willing to help out NACS and the industry in any way. He embodied the characteristics that make the convenience and petroleum industry what it is today: open, friendly, generous, welcoming, human and fun.”
On a personal note, Davis said, “Mike had a big heart and was one of the kindest people I have ever met. He wasn’t perfect, but he was an excellent friend. His presence will be missed by me, by the industry and by all those who loved him.”
Those sentiments were echoed by many in the industry in social media posts this week.
“Dude, you cannot imagine how much you will be missed,” Craig Neuhoff, director of new business development for GSP, wrote on LinkedIn.
“In my opinion, he knew the industry from the retail and supply side like no one else, which benefited everyone,” Neuhoff told CSP Daily News.
Zielinski, a resident of Homer Glen, Ill., was a founding partner and former CEO of Royal Buying Group, Lisle, Ill. More recently, he led multiple consulting and supply firms, including Smart Technology Products, MEZ Enterprises Inc. and Retail Management Services Inc.
“Mike had a great zeal for the convenience retailing business and was remarkably knowledgeable about every facet of the industry,” Bob Juckniess, a former retailer and current chief operating officer of Royal Buying Group, told CSP. “Mike was instrumental in the growth of RBG and made an extremely positive impact on the direction of convenience retailing during a very transitional time. Mike was well-liked within the community and his presence will be greatly missed.”
Funeral services will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 26 and 27. Click here for details.
CSP sends condolences to his family, his friends and his colleagues.