Open Pantry hosts a celebration for a store sales leader who has reached a milestone 25 years with the company.
By Erin Del Conte, Senior Editor
Open Pantry Food Marts of Wisconsin, along with a number of supplier partners, honored Store Sales Leader Debbie Markus, on Jan. 8, as she celebrated 25 years with Open Pantry.
Open Pantry operates eight locations in Wisconsin and Illinois. Markus is the store sales leader at the Open Pantry Convenience Store located at 4811 Northwest Highway, Crystal Lake, Ill.
Supplier partners and Open Pantry team members gathered at the Crystal Lake store to surprise Markus at 10 a.m. Monday for the celebration, which included a performance by a live Mariachi band.
“Debbie is a master at c-store management,” James Schutz, managing director for Open Pantry told CSD. “I have had the opportunity to work with her for 15 of her 25 years at Open Pantry; I can tell you she is still teaching me. I have been in leadership roles for some 30+ years and have worked along side many great leaders, and no one has the dedication to success as Debbie does.”
Robert Buhler, president and CEO at Open Pantry, gave Markus the title of ‘C-Store Queen’ many years ago due to her exceptional management and leadership experience.
During the festivities, Buhler presented Markus with a card and a $10,000 check in recognition of her 25 years. She also received a tiara, cape and feather boa in honor of her nickname ‘C-Store Queen,’ which she proudly wore as she greeted her customers who congratulated her.
“Debbie works very well in the company and impresses everyone for more—better ideas, better performance, better drive, and she’s a mentor to our other managers,” said Buhler as he presented the check. “It’s not every day that any company gets to celebrate a 25-year employee. We’re blessed to have Debbie Markus with us for 25 years.”
While many have come close, Markus is the first Open Pantry store sales leader to reach 25 years with the company.
Markus began as a sales leader at the Crystal Lake store in 1993. “Debbie was promoted to a regional sales leader for a number of years, however, she decided to travel less and focus on the store she loves,” Schutz said. Today, as a store sales leader for Open Pantry, she controls the day-to-day operations, financials, merchandising, customer experience and leadership.
Markus told CSD she was surprised by the celebration and appreciated that so many people took the time to come out to the store.
Out of her 25 years with Open Pantry, Markus said she is most proud of having taken over the Crystal Lake store at a time when it was struggling to be successful and turned it around and into a profitable location within the first year. She’s also proud of the employees who help make the store a success. “My people have stuck with me,” she said. “I last hired someone about five years ago. I have people who have been here 19 years, 15 years, 13 years, nine years, five years, 11 years. I’m fortunate to not have a lot of turnover. They’re awesome employees. It’s not just me.”
Buhler noted that the store’s lack of turnover is testament to Markus’ welcoming personality, superior leadership and commitment to both her team members and the community she serves. Her dedication to her customers is obvious within minutes of entering the store.
“I can truly say I have enjoyed every year I’ve worked with Open Pantry,” Markus said. “They’ve been very good to me.”