Innovation, outstanding operations, superior leadership, and an ongoing commitment to convenience retailing are the common characteristics of the best convenience store chains in the industry. Family Express embodies all of these qualities and more. That’s why Convenience Store Decisions is proud to honor Family Express as the 2015 Convenience Store Chain of the Year.
While many chains say they are committed to retail excellence, Family Express has taken steps above and beyond to not only ensure retail greatness, but to build a legacy. And that legacy starts with company founder, President and CEO, Gus Olympidis, who opened his first store on Christmas Day in 1975. Over the next 40 years, Family Express would become a household name across the c-store industry.
Family Express, headquartered in Valparaiso, Ind., operates 65 stores and employs nearly 700 men and women throughout Northwest and Central Indiana. While many chains say they are committed to retail excellence, Family Express has gone above and beyond to not only ensure retail greatness, but to secure its legacy in the convenience store industry. Olympidis should be lauded for his vision of what his convenience store chain could be and the fortitude to go and get it done.
While there are chains that are bigger, there is no one that works harder than Family Express. The company continues to push the boundaries of innovation for a mid-sized, family-owned convenience store chain. One crucial distinctive area that sets Family Express apart from most other convenience stores is its focus on logistics.
In 2010, the chain opened its own 150,000 square foot distribution center in Valparaiso. Just three years later, it added a central bakery, where today it can produce up to 50,000 square doughnuts, muffins, and other pastries per day that are delivered to its convenience stores daily.
Still, the chain embodies so much more. It is firmly committed to the “living brand” concept. The living brand encompasses all that Family Express has become, and all it hopes to be, and is woven into the fabric that makes Family Express special. It is a systemic commitment to retail excellence that begins with the employees. In fact, the living brand has evolved to become a palpable entity that connotes 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.
To foster the living brand, the company built a $4 million, 30,000-square-foot headquarters and 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.
To recruit qualified employees that share in its vision, earlier this year Family Express launched the “YOU MATTER!” initiative. The announcement articulated the Family Express initiative of the starting hourly wage at Family Express to be$10 per hour months before Walmart had announced their intention of moving their starting wage to $9 per hour sometime in the future.
Getting to this point was very much an evolutionary process for Olympidis, who is also a tireless legislative crusader that regularly communicates with lawmakers on behalf of the convenience store industry at the federal, state, and local levels.
Just how serious is Family Express about being able to deliver its high expectations? Consider that the company had a store in Valparaiso, which was a popular destination for residents.
Sales grew, but since the lot size was on the smaller side, the company had a hard time expanding to offer all of its new programs. Family Express made the call to shut the store down for good even though it was generating six figures plus for the bottom line.
“We could no longer deliver the full promise of the brand at this particular store,” Olympidis said. “We cannot justify this to our loyal customers.”