E-Z Mart Founder to Be Honored

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E-Z Mart Founder to Be Honored

TEXARKANA, Texas -- Jim Earl Yates, founder of the more than 300-unit E-Z Mart Stores Inc. convenience chain, will be inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame. Since its founding in 1999, 42 individuals have been honored for their accomplishments and lasting impact on the state.

"We are excited that it is our 11th year showcasing the significant contributions of Arkansas business leaders," Walton College Dean Dan L. Worrell said in a report by KARK 4 News. "The Arkansas economy has been blessed with a tremendous base of business talent. We believe it is vital to the state and its future business leaders to honor and perpetuate these inductees’ names and accomplishments."

Yates, who died at the age of 57 in a 1998 airplane crash, began his grocery career at 13 years old by carrying bags at a local supermarket. He continued working for a national supermarket chain in high school and quickly advanced to manager. Convenience stores were popular in large cities, so Yates and his wife FaEllen, believing that such stores would thrive in small towns, opened a 7-Eleven store in Ashdown in 1967.

A few years later, Yates opened the first E-Z Mart in Nashville, Ark. E-Z Mart Stores Inc. is now one of the largest privately held convenience store chains in the nation with stores in five states: Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri and Oklahoma. Yates served as chairman of the National Association of Convenience Stores in 1993 and received the National Grocers Association Spirit of America Award in 1992. He was chairman of the Wadley Regional Medical Center and the Perot Theatre in Texarkana, and served on the State Aviation Aerospace Commission.

The Arkansas Business Hall of Fame is permanently housed in the atrium of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Enterprise Development at the Walton College on the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville.

This year’s selection process was chaired by Walton College alumnus Larry Wilson, chairman and CEO of First Arkansas Bank & Trust, Jacksonville. A nominating committee of 25 business leaders encouraged people throughout the state and beyond to make nominations, and then a selection committee of 12 business and community leaders reviewed the nominations and chose the inductees, according to the report.

Criteria for selection included: the significance of the impact made as a business leader; the concern demonstrated for improving the community; and the display of ethics in all business dealings.

Joining Yates in being inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2009 are:

-- Chesley Pruet, founder of Pruet Drilling Co., El Dorado.
-- Raymond Rebsamen, founder of Rebsamen Insurance Co. Inc., Little Rock.
-- Willis Shaw, founder of Willis Shaw Express Inc., Elm Springs.
As reported by KARK 4 News, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held Friday, Feb. 13, at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, Ark.