Four Generations of C-Store Enthusiasts

CSP showcases up-and-coming industry leaders: Kocolene's Andrea Myers

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

Gary Myers (left), Andrea Myers, Robert Myers

SEYMOUR, Ind. -- Many new leaders in the convenience store industry come from family businesses, started generations ago by fathers, grandfathers and even great-grandfathers.

As the recently appointed president of Seymour, Ind.'s Kocolene Marketing (Fast Max, Smoker's Host) Andrea Myers is one of those family business leaders--but it wasn't her father, grandfather or great-grandfather who opened Kocolene's first location.

"Kocolene was founded in 1938 by my great grandmother," said Myers, referring to her great-grandmother Carrie M. Myers. "I'm fourth-generation family leadership at Kocolene."

As a way to illustrate an important, transitional period in the channel's history, CSP magazine interviewed more than a dozen new industry leaders, detailing their insights and revelations in its February cover story, "The Kids Are All Right."

Growing up with her grandfather, uncle and father all working for the company, it's not surprising that Myers' c-store aspirations began at a young age.

"I always wanted to be in the family business growing up," said Myers. "My dad would carry a briefcase to and from work--when his briefcases would be worn out, he'd give me his old ones. I'd carry them around the house and play office. He'd usually leave some business cards in there and it was great because all I'd have to do was change the first name and I'd be the president."

As she got older, Myers' commitment to the company only grew, working at the stores in high school and occasionally filling in at the corporate offices.

But such early enthusiasm doesn't mean she didn't consider other paths in life. Instead of attending a more local college, Myers went all the way to Texas to attend Southern Methodist University. During her senior year she worked for SMU's vice president of communications and public affairs, getting to rub elbows with the big names that came to speak at the school including Laura Bush and Madeline Albright. She made such an impression on the vice president that she was offered a permanent position after she graduated.

"I had to ask 'what's more valuable: sitting around and mingling with Madeleine Albright and the Bushes or getting to work with my dad and my uncle and hearing stories about your grandfather and your great grandmother?'," she said. "To me, it was kind of a no-brainer to come home and get to live out those experiences before my dad and my uncle are gone."

Ten years later, Myers has absolutely no regrets about her decision. During her time at Kocolene, she has been mentored by her father Gary (Kocolene's current CEO) and her uncle Robert (Kocolene's chairman)--two men who are equally enthusiastic about the family business.

"I interviewed my Uncle Bob when he got his 45-year service award last year. He said, 'my work is my play. I enjoy the people here, I enjoy the stores, I enjoy the work'," said Myers. "I get that. I have friends that dread Mondays like the flu. I love Mondays. I'm really fortunate."