OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. -- Visionary. Inspiration. Influence. Commitment. Competitive. These are among the words leaders in the convenience-store industry use when discussing Chester Cadieux, the co-founder of the QuikTrip c-store chain who died this week.
“We need more Chester Cadieuxs in our industry if we want to be better retailers and win in this uncertain future,” Alain Bouchard, chairman of Alimentation Couche-Tard, told CSP Daily News.
Cadieux and classmate Burt Holmes started QuikTrip with a single c-store in 1958, building it to one of the largest (No. 12 on CSP’s 2016 Top 101 list of the largest chains in the U.S.) and most-respected convenience-store chains in the country. He handed the reins of the company to his son Chet Cadieux in 2002.
For those who have conferred with Chester Cadieux on business matters over the years, a similar piece of industry advice rises to the top:
“[In 1988] Cadieux recommended that we close 50% of the stores that were the lowest volume and to focus on the highest potential locations and building a culture of excellence,” said Sam L. Susser, former chairman and CEO of Susser Holdings Corp. “Due to our financial constraints at the time, we could not immediately follow his wise counsel, but 10 years later, we started building large high-volume sites and aggressively paring the underperformers from the portfolio. Cadieux’s advice in 1988 was right on then and it remains so today.”
Here are other thoughts and reflections from c-store industry leaders:
“What a good thinker he was. … When I first read years ago that he was closing or selling a good percentage of his stores, I thought that I would never be able to take such an approach for our own company. What a visionary; he was right. You have to redefine yourselves constantly if you want to be around long term.” —Alain Bouchard, chairman, Alimentation Couche-Tard
“Chester was a great man and a great mentor to me. His willingness to share was always so impressive to me. He taught us how to sell more fuel, more fountain, etc. But most of all, he taught us the importance of people. People make the difference, and Chester was committed to his people. He will be missed, but he will be remembered by all who knew him.”—Steve Sheetz, chairman, Sheetz Family Council
“Chester was a humble, wonderful leader who was a strong force in influencing and shaping the success and the image of Wawa, as well as the convenience-store industry. More than anything, he was a true friend and exemplary human being who will be greatly missed. He was a mentor to me in many ways and was the inspiration for us to enter the fuel business in 1996. He was caring and encouraging and a great believer in providing opportunities for his people.” —Dick Wood, chairman, Wawa
"Chester’s influence on the convenience-store industry has been immeasurable, and his impact will be felt across the industry for years to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with Chester’s family and team members during this difficult time, and we hope they find peace in their memories of him and comfort in the bright future that lies ahead thanks to his leadership."—Allison Bolch Moran, CEO, RaceTrac
“I will always remember Chester for being relentless in his pursuit of QT brand excellence during a period when our industry was struggling a bit with image. He created the template that many companies, Nice N Easy included, followed and still use to this day: consistent quality and image from the road to the pumps to the store to the person at the POS.”—Fran Duskiewicz, former CEO, Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes
“Chester truly reinvented the industry with larger, more convenient formats, a commitment to keeping the stores refreshed and modern and, most important and impressive, his commitment to people and the customer-service culture that he developed at QT. [He was] a true visionary that has forced us all to get better in our own businesses.”—Brian Hannasch, CEO, Alimentation Couche-Tard
“I am frequently asked who are the best operators in the c-store business and why. I’m always quick to mention QuikTrip as one of not only the finest convenience-store outfits, but one of the finest businesses I have ever encountered because of their tremendous commitment to superior customer service and the way in which they treat people. People are the competitive edge at QuikTrip, and their style has had tremendous impact on my thinking about business strategy and leadership.”—Sam L. Susser, former chairman and CEO, Susser Holdings Corp./Stripes Convenience Stores
“Chester was a pioneer in our industry and someone who I truly admired. I offer my condolences to his family as well as the QT team."—Tony Kenney, CEO, Speedway
"Chester has left just a tremendous legacy. He has contributed to the greater good of countless people and is one of the most significant leaders to shape and influence the prosperity and success of the convenience-store industry. We all owe him such a debt of gratitude and our lasting admiration."—Paul Reuter, CSP founder and chairman, Midwest Retail Group
The Cadieux family is asking that donations be made to the Chester Cadieux Memorial River Parks Fund.