Convenience retailing is about selling the right stuff. But to be a successful convenience retailer, there’s an even more important kind of “right stuff.” Thomas Nicholas Trkla of Yesway has both kinds.
Yesway, a unit of private-equity firm Brookwood Financial Partners LLC, Beverly, Mass., came almost out of nowhere in July 2016 with the purchase of 31 c-stores, mostly from West Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go. It now has more than 70 stores. It has since made a series of acquisitions—52 locations in 2017 alone—that has expanded the chain’s footprint from Iowa into Texas, Missouri and Kansas.
Trkla says that for first-quarter 2018, Yesway has 80 more stores in eight states in the acquisition pipeline. And over the next four years, the company plans to acquire an additional 120 to 130 stores per year to get to its goal of 500 locations.
In 2017, the chain rolled out its Yesway Rewards program, implemented a new foodservice program led by veteran restaurant-industry chef Carlos Acevedo and launched its Yesway Signature Blends coffee. In 2018, it plans to launch private-label and fleet programs.
“We’re moving very fast, but very deliberately,” says Trkla.
Trkla says his parents are his biggest influence. “My mom and my dad ... came from humble beginnings, and they worked incredibly hard and made tremendous sacrifices to move to a city where we could go to really good schools,” he says. “They had very, very high moral and social values and instilled that in all of us and really taught us the importance of social and civic responsibility, which transcends everything I do in my business—that’s how I run Yesway, how I run Brookwood.”
Those values translate to more than just Yesway’s financials. “We spent a lot of time and research on how we give back to the community,” he says. “That’s part of our ethos, and it’s inculcated in our culture. That’s a big part of who we are and who we want to be, serving these communities and representing the people in them.”
2016—Year newcomer Yesway went from zero to 31 c-stores