Innovation, outstanding operations, superior leadership and an ongoing commitment to convenience retailing are the common characteristics of the best convenience store chains in industry. Family Express embodies all of these qualities and more. That’s why Convenience Store Decisions proudly announces Family Express as the 2015 Convenience Store Chain of the Year award.
The Chain of the Year award, now in its 26th year, is the oldest and most prestigious award for convenience retailing in the industry. Family Express will supplant Atlanta-based RaceTrac Petroleum as Chain of the Year, considered the gold standard in convenience store retailing.
Family Express will be honored at an exclusive awards ceremony on Monday, Oct. 12 during the NACS Show at The Hard Rock Café in Las Vegas.
“I have observed Family Express and its evolution for close to 20 years, and the chain continues to amaze me with its innovation and daily commitment to being one of the finest convenience store operators in the industry,” said John Lofstock, vice president and editor-in-chief of Convenience Store Decisions. “There are chains that are bigger, but there is no one that works harder than Family Express and we’re proud to recognize their commitment to bringing excellence in convenience retailing.”
“Words can’t express how honored we are for Family Express being recognized,” said Gus Olympidis, founder, president and CEO of Family Express. “Our focus has always been on customers, employees, and community, and not on ourselves. We will cherish this moment in gratitude for our supplier partners and the relationships of a lifetime that this great industry has afforded us.”
Today, the company operates 63 convenience stores in Indiana and continues to be family-owned and operated by the Olympidis family. Olympidis’s sons, Spiro, Dimitri, Alex have joined their father in the family business.
Excellence in Retailing
Over the years, family-owned Family Express has not been afraid to take risks in its pursuit of retail excellence. In 2010, the chain opened its own 150,000-square-foot distribution center. Just three years later, it added a central bakery, where today it produces thousands of doughnuts, muffins, cookies and other pastries that are delivered to its convenience stores daily.
The unique Family Express logistics model is organized along two separate tracks. The daily delivery of perishable goods and many private label shelf-stable products is facilitated every day by what has become the iconic “moo” trucks…no kidding…these are delivery trucks decorated with cow graphics, including the “unexplained” upside down cow. The “moo” trucks actually moo upon arriving and leaving the stores during their delivery route.
The weekly delivery of dry goods is a unique logistical collaboration between Family Express and Eby Brown. The relationship between Family Express and Eby Brown has evolved for over 40 years. “Our unique business model could never have prospered without support by our supplier partners. This important relationship started with Dick and Tom Wake’s late father, Bill Wake in the early 70s,” Olympidis said.
The once-a-day delivery includes fresh sandwiches, chips, frozen pizza, milk, bread and pastries. Many of the fresh items, including the company’s popular square doughnut, are created in a central bakery that adjoins the distribution facility, an arrangement that ensures additional productivity and freshness. As a result of this system, only 10% of Family Express deliveries arrive via direct store delivery (DSD).
Still, the chain embodies so much more. It is committed to the “living brand” concept. The living brand encompasses all that Family Express has become, and all it hopes to be. It’s the company’s connection with building relationships with every customer intercepts. The living brand is a palpable entity that signifies trust, commands respect and guarantees a standard of excellence that employees carry with pride and customers have come to expect during each visit to Family Express. It literally permeates all aspects of the chain and lives on in perpetuity through each employee.
To foster the living brand, the company built a $4 million, 30,000-square-foot headquarters/learning center in Valparaiso featuring a full-scale, functioning Family Express store to train employees and test new products. Adjacent to the training store is a state-of-the art learning center where an employee in training is subjected to about 50 modules of custom computer-based curriculum. The headquarters also includes a state-of-the art fitness center that is available for all company employees and their families.
Just 80% of those invited to training achieve graduation and gain permanent employment with Family Express.
Close to a year ago, Family Express announced the “YOU MATTER!” initiative. The announcement articulated Family Express’ plan to start an hourly wage of $10 per hour months before Walmart had announced its intention of moving its starting wage to $9 per hour sometime in the future.
While most companies hire with the intention of teaching new employees retail skills, Family Express focuses on a person’s natural inclination to “relationship,” and simply allows and encourages them to build relationships. The Family Express workforce may be the most productive sales force in the convenience store industry. Family Express’ frontline employees generate a remarkable $150 on in-store sales per labor hour.
“It is this kind of innovation and connection with the customers that sets Family Express apart from its peers,” said Tom McIntyre, group publisher for Convenience Store Decisions. “The Olympidis family’s leadership in building a dynamic company so committed to its employees, its customers and the community is another reminder that family-owned businesses continue to be such an important part of our industry.”
About the Chain of the Year Award
CSD’s Chain of the Year award annually honors a convenience store or petroleum chain that has established itself as a superior retailer and innovator in its markets of operation. CSD’s first Chain of the Year award was given to Wawa Inc. in 1990. Family Express follows 2014 Chain of the Year winner RaceTrac Petroleum. Other past winners include Sheetz Inc., 7-Eleven Inc., Krause Gentle Corp., Amerada Hess, Exxon Mobil Corp., Petro-Canada and Kwik Trip Inc.
PAST CHAIN OF THE YEAR WINN ERS
* 1990 – Wawa Inc.
* 1991 – SuperAmerica
* 1992 – QuikTrip Corp.
* 1993 – Casey’s General Stores Inc.
* 1994 – Sheetz Inc.
* 1995 – Diamond Shamrock Corp.
* 1996 – Mapco Express
* 1997 – Speedway Inc.
* 1998 – Krause Gentle Corp.
* 1999 – Dairy Mart Inc.
* 2000 – Amerada Hess Corp.
* 2001 – Huck’s Food & Fuel
* 2002 – Petro-Canada
* 2003 – Exxon Mobil Corp.
* 2004 – Kwik Trip Inc.
* 2005 – 7-Eleven Inc.
* 2006 – Valero Inc.
* 2007 – Alimentation Couche-Tard
* 2008 – Chevron Inc.
* 2009 – Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes
* 2010 – Rutter’s Farm Stores
* 2011 – Thorntons Inc.
* 2012 – Tedeschi Food Shops
* 2013 – Maverik Inc.
* 2014 – RaceTrac Petroleum Inc.