40 Years of Leadership

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40 Years of Leadership

This year, Convenience Store News embarks on its 40th year. The oldest continuously published news publication for the convenience store industry was founded in 1969 by Harry Trautgott. The convenience store industry was barely an industry at all then. There were fewer than 11,000 c-stores in the United States and few people could even agree on the definition of a "convenience store."

Looking at the pages of our early issues reveals the dramatic changes in both the convenience store industry and in CSNews over the past four decades. At the time, the industry was beset with economic problems, battles with the government over unfair taxation and onerous regulation, inflation, vendor indifference, and soaring crime (one page one article reported on a Houston-based c-store chain owner who asked the City Council for permission to arm his store managers with handguns because of a wave of robbery and violence at his stores).

But Trautgott had a vision, and he spent a great deal of his working life evangelizing about the future of c-stores. Then, as now, CSNews was a big supporter of the industry's fledgling trade association -- today's NACS -- which was then headed by QuikTrip's founder Chet Cadieux, who became the first industry executive inducted into the CSNews' Hall of Fame.

Trautgott also recognized the industry's need for reliable data, and after less than one year of publication, he researched and published the first CSNews Industry Report, which continues to serve its original purpose of charting the growth of the industry into today's ginormous $569 billion, 146,000-store business.

On reflection, I am struck by the fact that many things are not that different today than they were in 1969. CSNews' founding year was marked by many notable, dubious and distasteful events in the world outside of convenience stores -- Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, thousands of baby boomers gathered for a weekend of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll at Woodstock, while the Charles Manson murders and Chappaquiddick were the scandals of the day.

Today, we have the inauguration of America's first black president, millions of baby boomers panicked about their shrinking net eggs as they near retirement age, and scandals galore, from Illinois Governor Blagojevich selling Congressional seats to Bernard Madoff's alleged $50-billion Ponzi scheme.

While we are very proud of the role we played in the development of the c-store industry, this anniversary year celebration is about much more than just the 40th birthday of CSNews. It is an industry celebration of the hard work, vision, and entrepreneurial spirit of all the retailers, suppliers and wholesalers who have made the c-store industry the most vibrant and interesting channel of retailing today. That's why we are proud to launch another industry-first -- this 40-year anniversary microsite.

In this special anniversary section, we've picked some of the best news stories and events covered by CSNews over the past 40 years. But, we also tried not to dwell on our own accomplishments, leaving it to many of the leading industry players of both yesterday and today to express their own thoughts and remembrances of the convenience store industry's colorful history. The centerpiece of the package is a 40-year timeline highlighting the companies, events and trends that helped shape today's convenience store industry and our Industry Scrapbook, a look back through photos at the people, celebrations, conventions and events that made our industry special. Weighing in with their personal thoughts is a line-up of industry luminaries -- many of them CSNews Hall of Fame members -- in a special 40th anniversary version of our popular "Infrequently Asked Questions" feature.

You, our industry readers, will also have an opportunity to contribute to this microsite. Don't hesitate to contribute your thoughts, ideas and listings of significant milestones, products and innovations that you think had the greatest impact on the industry. To do so, please visit our Spare Change blog section dedicated to the past 40 years in convenience retailing by clicking here.

And check back with us frequently, as we add your comments and contributions, as well as additional anniversary features currently being developed to run exclusively in our special 40th birthday section.

Do you have a memory or fun anecdote to share? Visit the Spare Change blog section dedicated to the past 40 years in convenience retailing by clicking here.