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Schaninger Returns to C-Stores With Refuel

Longtime QuickChek executive joins growing South Carolina chain

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. — Convenience retailer Refuel Operating Co. LLC has appointed John Schaninger, a more than 40-year veteran of the c-store industry, as vice president of organizational development. In this newly created position, Schaninger will assist the convenience-store chain in strategic, operational and functional development for long-term and short-term growth objectives.

John Schaninger

Refuel, based in Mount Pleasant, S.C., owns and operates 33 convenience stores in South Carolina. Its private equity sponsor, First Reserve, Stamford, Conn., formed Refuel Operating Co. through the acquisition of Charleston, S.C.-based Refuel Inc. and its six c-stores in February 2019. It immediately also acquired West Oil Inc., Hartsville, S.C., with 25 c-stores. In June 2019, Refuel acquired Bishopville Petroleum Co. Inc., Bishopville, S.C., adding two more c-stores.

Refuel is pursuing a rapid growth trajectory, it said, investing more than $50 million in new-to-industry c-stores throughout the Charleston, S.C., market while actively pursuing additional acquisitions.

Previously with QuickChek Corp. for 38 years, Schaninger was vice president of sales and marketing for 15 years, following a long career in operations. Leaving the chain of more than 150 c-stores in 2017, he formed The Schaninger Group, a Bucks County, Pa.-based retail consulting company focused on helping convenience retailers succeed.

Before joining Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based QuickChek, Schaninger worked in his family’s grocery business.

“John’s background in marketing and operations coupled with his focus on team building and developing people is a perfect fit for Refuel as we grow our company to be the best convenience retailer in our market,” said Refuel CEO Mark Jordan. “Having spent considerable time with John, it is apparent that he fits the tremendous culture of Refuel and has extensive knowledge to enrich our people and operational strategies and processes, which is vital in driving a people-first organization.”

“Refuel’s commitment to people and being the best they can be is evident every day, and is driven with an energy, humility and an openness to change that is truly refreshing,” Schaninger said.

CSP Daily News chatted with Schaninger to find out more about his aspirations at Refuel and in the c-store industry:

Can you provide some more details on why you joined Refuel, and what your plans are in the position?

I have known Mark Jordan for years, and recently had the opportunity to spend more time with him formally, visit stores and meet team members. I then visited every store, alone, so team members could feel free to speak with me without upper management. It became apparent that Refuel has a wonderful culture, as I learned when speaking with not only Mark but every team member that I met, in every store. Assisting in growing that type of positive environment is a passion of mine, so it was a fairly easy decision to join the team.

What will your duties be under the title of vice president of organizational development?

I will be working with current and future management to help develop or enhance people, systems and processes to grow the company and become the best retailer in the market.

I know Refuel is going head-to-head with Parker’s in the Charleston, S.C., market. Can you share any strategy about that?

Greg and his team at Parker's do a lot of great things, as do Spinx and so many others in the market. When I was at QuickChek, we competed against Wawa, Dunkin’, McDonald's and, of course, 7-Eleven and Speedway, among many others. Many years ago, I asked Louie Sheetz how he competes when a competitor opens across the street. He told me, "John, there is room for all of us. We will be the best we can be and customers will choose." Great insight from a great leader. We all have our niches, our strengths and areas we need to improve on, both personally and as businesses. One of our goals moving forward will be to refine and improve on our strengths, communicate them to consumers, address areas of vulnerability and assess competitors to identify opportunities. It doesn't get more fun that that!

What keeps you interested in the convenience-store business?

My entire life has been spent in retail, from selling candy as a child in my parent's superette through my entire varied career at QuickChek. After my family (and guitars), there is nothing I love more than team members, customers and products. The camaraderie, willingness to share and close connection with customers is what draws me to the convenience industry in particular.

[Editor’s note: Schaninger took first place for singing and performing an original song on acoustic guitar in CSP's 2011 Convenience Retailing University CRU's Got Talent contest. (Photograph courtesy of CSP Staff.)]

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