The industry veteran has spent more than 55 years in the convenience store industry and has been active in the National Advisory Group (NAG) since 1980. He will receive the second annual Lifetime Award at the NAG Conference in Savannah, Ga. on Sept. 13.
Family-owned convenience stores remain the backbone of the convenience store industry, a fact Bill Weigel has carried with pride for 56 years. For Weigel, chairman of Weigel’s in Powell, Tenn., the journey has been a magnificent ride that carries fond memories of inspiration, strong leadership, great people and an unwavering desire to be successful. The industry has changed dramatically over the past half a century, but Bill Weigel has not only changed with the times, he has led the way for many of his industry peers.
That’s why the National Advisory Group (NAG) is proud to announce Bill Weigel as the 2016 recipient of the second annual NAG Lifetime Award for Convenience Retailing.
“While Weigel’s continues to flourish, Bill Weigel’s biggest impact on the convenience store industry has been his influence on his peers to strive for retailing excellence,” said John Lofstock, executive director of NAG. “I have known Bill for close to two decades and in addition to being one of the most passionate c-store operators in the industry, he is better known for his commitment to doing things the right way and always making himself available to help others succeed. It’s a privilege to recognize Bill with this award.”
Weigel, who succeeds David Johnson, of Toot’ n Totum in Texas as the NAG Lifetime Award winner, will be honored at a ceremony on Sept. 13 at the 2016 NAG Conference in in Savannah, Ga.
“NAG has been a great industry resource for me since its inception,” Bill Weigel said. ”You never leave a NAG meeting without an improvement or a new idea for your company. I’m proud of the friends I’ve made and the things I’ve learned at this important industry organization.”
NAG, a convenience store trade association focused on small, mid-sized and family-owned businesses, has a long history dedicated to helping convenience store owners improve their businesses through education and networking.
Through the years, many individuals have selflessly dedicated their time and energy to ensure that NAG succeeds and holds a special place with convenience store owners. Weigel is one of these industry leaders and has been involved with NAG since 1980.
Long History in Retail
Weigel’s was founded as a dairy company in 1931. It wouldn’t be until 1964 that the company moved into the convenience store business.
Bill Weigel began working for the family business in the 1950s, but didn’t join the company full time until 1962, after returning from a small air base in Chambley, France during the Berlin Crisis of 1961-1962. From the very beginning of his tenure, Weigel was focused on growth. He was constantly striving to update stores and bring new, productive ideas into the company’s east Tennessee market area.
After building 10 drive-through milk depots, Weigel built the first walk-in milk store in June of 1964. Weigel attended the 3rd annual convention of the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 1964 and discovered a new industry of convenience was beginning. He returned to Knoxville and immediately extended the opening hours of Weigel’s stores from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. He also expanded the product assortment to include a dairy case, an ice cream case, a grocery department, candy and miscellaneous items located at the checkout counter.
From the very beginning of the convenience store era, Weigel recognized that finding the right people was the key to success. “Store hours were long, but we have always taken care of our people, “Weigel said. “Remuneration involved a salary plus bonus. There were no fringe benefits, but we respected our people and looked at them as our partners. In no time, Weigel’s came to be known as a pleasant place to work.”
Today, Weigel’s operates 63 convenience stores, all within a 100-mile radius of corporate headquarters in Powell, Tenn. The bright, spacious stores being built now represent state-of-the-art convenience retailing, offering food, fuel, competitive pricing and unconditionally guaranteed products.
Weigel and Ken McMullen, president and chief operating officer of Weigel’s Inc., hold a mutual optimism about the company’s future, with both effusive in their praise of the new programs the chain is currently developing. It is rolling out a dynamic made-to-order foodservice program, added a 6,000-square-foot bakery, operates a proprietary loyalty program that incorporates ACH debit to help reduce credit card fees and enhancing its retail image to ensure the Weigel’s brand will endear itself to a new generation of convenience store customers.
But it’s what Weigel has done away from the convenience store that makes him special. For the past 18 years, Weigel’s has teamed with the Salvation Army to provide Christmas gifts for underprivileged kids from the Knoxville, Tenn. and the surrounding areas. In 2015, children ranging in age from five years old to nine years old were each given $150 for a Christmas shopping spree at Kmart.
For the past five years, Weigels has partnered with the Tennessee Veterans Business Association to support veterans transitioning back into the workforce and recruiting veterans to become a part of Weigel’s stores. In January, Bill Weigel’s was awarded the “Younger” Entrepreneur Award, a special honor bestowed by the Tennessee Veterans Business Association. The “Younger” Entrepreneur Award is a prestigious accolade presented to three long-standing business-holding veterans who have shown endless energy, passion and vision to create positive contributions to the local community, including veterans and their families.
In May 13, at the 12th Annual Pinnacle Business Awards Gala hosted by the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, Weigel’s received the Large Business Excellence Award, which recognizes an east Tennessee business with 201 or more employees that has shown remarkable profitably, growth and stability. Weigel’s was selected by a committee made up of the chamber’s board of directors.