At the National Advisory Group (NAG) Dinner & Awards Ceremony Tuesday evening, NAG honored Gus Olympidis, President of Family Express in Valparaiso, Ind., as the 2019 recipient of the NAG Lifetime Award for Convenience Retailing.
Olympidis is being honored for his legacy of leadership, vision, friendship and philanthropy in the convenience store industry.
While the industry has changed dramatically since Family Express was founded on Christmas Day in 1975, Gus never wavered in his commitment to excellence and his compassion for people.
John Lofstock, executive director of NAG, presented the award.
“Gus is truly a special individual,” said Lofstock. “I have known him professionally for more than 20 years. I was impressed then with his honesty and willingness to share his industry knowledge. As I learned more about him personally, I was even more impressed. Whether it was spending the day touring stores, having dinner at his home or firing automatic weapons into a pond in his backyard, Gus is passionate about sharing and treating others with respect.”
Much of tomorrow’s success depends on our ability to groom next-generation leaders, Lofstock said. The mission of NAG’s Young Executives Organization (YEO) is to cultivate young talent in the convenience store industry. When relaunching YEO, Olympidis was an enthusiastic supporter.
“It’s a special group with a special place in this industry,” he told Lofstock.
The first YEO Roundtable was at a hotel in Chicago. Lofstock called people, promoted the event online and in CStore Decisions magazine and ordered food for 50. About five people came, three of them were his staff, one was Alex Olympidis, who is now President of Family Express, and one was a guy no one knew, nor had seen since.
Gus never backed off his belief in YEO and said not to be discouraged. He recommended to change the model and hold the roundtable on location at a c-store chain so attendees can view their operations and interact with executives. He opened the doors of Family Express that next year and we drew more than 50 people.
“We will always be grateful for his belief in NAG and YEO, his leadership and, most importantly, his friendship,” said Lofstock. “That’s why we are so honored to recognize Gus this evening with this prestigious NAG Award.”
Over the next few years Maverik, RaceTrac, Cumberland Farms and McLane all stepped up to host the event and it has grown every year.
In 2020, the first full YEO Conference will be held in Nashville. YEO might not be in this position today if Family Express did not open its doors to our members.
Family Express itself continues to push the boundaries of innovation for a mid-sized, family-owned convenience store chain. In 2010, Family Express opened its own 150,000 square foot distribution center. Just three years later, it added a central bakery, where today it produces thousands of pastries that are delivered to its convenience stores daily.
Aside from operations, Family Express is a people-focused company. It adheres to the ‘living brand’ concept, which fosters a strong retail culture and promises customers an outstanding experience every time they come in contact with the Family Express brand.
The company built a 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 subject to dozens of interactive custom training.
While most companies hire with the intention of teaching new employees retail skills, Family Express focuses on a person’s natural inclination to build relationships. The Family Express workforce is among the most productive sales force in the c-store industry, and the chain’s turnover is at 35% for frontline employees and 6% for managers.
While Family Express has an outstanding operation and has earned the respect of all who have come in contact with the brand, Olympidis’ legacy will be his hard work, his commitment to doing things the right way and always making himself available to help others succeed.
“I can’t tell you how honored I am, from the bottom of my heart. This recognition coming about in a particular juncture in my life where your resume begins to sound a little bit like an obituary, and it’s kind of cool,” said Olympidis. “I want to tell you, I’m more more comfortable delivering accolades than I am receiving them.”
He went on to recognize his “partner of a lifetime” and wife Beth Olympidis, who was with him that night.
He also chose to recognize and celebrate CSD’s 2019 Chain of the Year, Wegel’s, as well as C-store Decisions magazine as a whole, and Lofstock’s 50th birthday.
“So thank you, and thank you for the Convenience Store Decisions team for caring about those who define the future of this industry,” said Olympidis.