DICKINSON, S.C. — “Spoiled” as a child when his father allowed him to pick out two candy treats at the local convenience store in his North Dakota hometown, Jared Scheeler is now reaping the spoils of an ascending retail career built on hard work and a laser-focused vision.
Scheeler, the CEO of The Hub Convenience Stores Inc., Dickinson, N.D., began his career in the convenience industry in 1998 while attending the University of Minnesota, working at Minneapolis-based Bobby & Steve’s Auto World.
Co-founding The Hub in 2015, Scheeler October was named chairman of the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) for 2021-22. The Hub Convenience Stores, with six Mobil-branded locations, “aims to break every negative stereotype of the convenience-store industry by delivering quality food products, clean facilities and restrooms, great security and lighting, and world-class customer service,” according to its mission statement.
“[When] I look back at my childhood, I loved convenience stores. They’re such a big part of the fabric of everybody’s lives,” Scheeler told CSP. “I remember vividly in my hometown that there was a store called Jessen’s owned by the Jessen family. On occasion, I was kind of spoiled [as] my dad would pull into Jessen’s after school and say, ‘All right, everybody gets to pick out two things’ … from the candy section. Those are my earliest memories of convenience stores.”
Scheeler was a recent guest on “Convenience Matters,” a podcast produced and delivered by NACS. Read on for an edited transcript of the conversation, which offers a glimpse into Scheeler’s take on this industry, his place in it, and where he sees independent retailers headed during the next decade.
Q: Can you describe how the narrative evolved from loving convenience stores to working in one to then operating one?
A: I’ve always had a love for retail. My grandfather owned and operated two grocery stores in Dickinson, and that was a multigenerational business. When I moved from North Dakota to Minneapolis to attend college, I took a part-time job, and that’s how I got involved in the industry at Bobby and Steve’s Auto World, just to put a few bucks in my pocket for spending. I worked there for 15 years in many positions. I learned how to build a great business, how to build yourself as a leader and how to develop others in leadership. Every day was so different, and it didn’t take me long to decide that as long as this industry was going to have me, I was going to stay with it.
Q: What made you move back to Dickinson?
A: My wife and I really cherished and valued where we grew up in western North Dakota. Just the culture and the way of life in a small town and in a rural area. We combined our desire to move back home with a business opportunity. I met with some investment partners and pitched a plan to them for building a new convenience chain. In 2015 we opened our first The Hub store.
Q: What was the inspiration behind selecting The Hub as your brand?
A: The idea of The Hub was out of a list of 100, and we narrowed that down pretty quickly. The Hub always stood out to me as No. 1 from the beginning because I wanted our businesses to be the hub of our communities in many different ways: from being the convenience destination within the communities we served to being the hub of the community as far as our involvement in it, such as donations to the community and being a great place to work. Also being something that consumers in our area “didn’t expect” out of convenience. The Hub just stuck with us, and we built our logo around it using a gear as an iconic part of it. It’s part of our imaging inside our stores. It’s not just a word anymore but it’s really our lifeblood.
Q: What are you looking forward to most this year as your time as NACS chairman?
A: If there’s any benefit I could get out of this next year it would be to personally meet as many forward-thinking small operators as possible. I’d like to do whatever I can within my power to help as many people take their businesses to the next level. I’m willing to share where I’ve been, what I’ve done and where I’m going so that it can help other people. I want to see this industry grow and want to see our small operators get better, because we need to get better. We look at the big companies that are doing some really, really nice things right now, and we have to keep up with them. In many ways, I think we have an opportunity to jump ahead of them in some areas.
Q: Where do you see the independent convenience retailer being in 10 years?
A: I think with all the consolidation that’s gone on—really over the past five years—there’s some hesitancy or a little bit of fear as far as where the small retailer is going to fall. When everything kind of settles down [with the pandemic], my strong belief—because most of our small operators reside in small communities—is that they are going to get stronger. The competitive landscape is going to change. The ability to compete on price is going to change a little bit. We have to remember that’s not how we’ve staked our claim in this industry, through price. We might have gasoline or a candy bar that’s a little bit more than a competitor down the street, but it’s what we are and who we are to our communities that’s always going to be important. As the big get bigger, they might lose that a little bit, so I think there’s opportunity for the small operator to own that, to be the hub of their community … just like we are.
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