Former GPM CEO Reflects on Tenure


RICHMOND, Va. – As GPM Investments LLC's president and CEO, Dave McComas, resigned from his post earlier this week, he reflect with CSNews Online on his time at the company, which operates the Fas Mart and Shore Stop convenience store chains.

McComas, who has 25 years experience in the convenience store and petroleum industry, joined Fas Mart Convenience Stores Inc. 11 years ago while the company was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He told CSNews Online some of his career highlights include operating the company through its 2001-2002 bankruptcy. In October 2002, GPM Investments LLC, its current parent, bid nearly $50 million to acquire the then 169-unit company, according to CSNews Online archives.

Other highlights McComas cited were making three major acquisitions; growing EBITDA fivefold from 2004 to 2010; developing an operational and technical platform that is capable of supporting double the company's current 215-unit store count; and developing what he called one of the best management teams in the business.

As reported earlier this week, McComas will stay at GPM for transition purposes. He told CSNews Online he will remain with the company until Oct. 8.

Commenting on his resignation's timing, he said: "Our new owners and I have very different views about the future direction for the company." GPM interim CEO, Dave Eisenberg, said in a Richmond Times-Dispatch report the decision to make a change in the company's leadership was mutually agreed upon by McComas and GPM's board. "[McComas] agreed that a change was in the best interest of the company," he said, praising McComas' tenure. "He will be missed."

While there are no definitive next steps for McComas as of press time, he said there are a few opportunities he will explore, following some time off. One opportunity is within the c-store channel, while another is outside the industry, he told CSNews Online.

McComas joined the c-store industry in 1977 with 7-Eleven, then The Southland Corp., working as a store manger. He climbed the ladder there until 1993, when he left his post as market manager to be a merchandise manager at Southwest Convenience Stores. He rejoined 7-Eleven in 1994, this time at 7-Eleven Mexico as the vice president of operations. In 1996, McComas joined SSP Petroleum and served as its vice president of operations, vice president of marketing and division manager. He joined Fas Mart in 1999.

Meanwhile, through a new, $46 million credit facility, the Fas Mart convenience store chain, based here, will begin updating its stores and increasing its social media outreach. At the same time, its parent company will search for a new chief executive to replace McComas.

Eisenberg said in a Richmond Times-Dispatch report that the company is ready to make these changes.

"What I want is to spruce up the stores and make them nicer places to shop," he said. Eisenburg is the former president and chief executive of Peoples Drug Stores Inc. chain, and has been a board member and served as a consultant since GPM bought Fas Mart out of bankruptcy in 2003, according to the report.

Among the changes to stores will be brighter interior and exterior lighting, wider aisles and cleaner stores, he said. One of Eisenberg's first objectives is to work on the appearance of the company's 213 stores in nine states, the report stated. Eisenberg told the paper he already reached out to the company's four divisions to identify stores that need the most updating. He said work is expected to begin soon.

"It won't be that difficult [to begin]. We already have the crews. We just didn't have the capital," he told the newspaper. With the capital now place, the company can begin its plan.

The financing replaces existing loans and gives the company operating capital, and "got us out of draconian terms" of a previous agreement. Eisenberg told the paper. The loan was made through Miami-based investment firm Bayside Capital Inc.

In addition, Eisenberg is developing a social media strategy to target younger shoppers, possibly utilizing vendors' databases. Through this approach, GPM could target teens leaving school with a text message offering a special price for a candy bar and drink.

The goal is to win younger shoppers now, "so when they get their driver's licenses, they'll think kindly of Fas Mart," Eisenberg said in the report.

Beyond running day-to-day operations of GPM, Eisenberg also will oversee the hiring of a permanent chief executive, though there is no set time frame for finding a replacement, he said.

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