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Jere Thompson, former president of the Southland Corp./7-Eleven

Jere Thompson, along with his brother John, can be credited with expanding the modern convenience store, a retail concept that grew out of their father Joe C. Thompson's Southland Ice business. In 1946, Southland's Tote'm convenience stores, which sold milk, bread and other staples, were renamed 7-Eleven to promote their extended hours of operation, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Jere Thompson, currently president of the Williamsburg Corp., became president and CEO of Southland in 1983.

John and Jere oversaw the chain's tremendous expansion and were inducted into Convenience Store News' Industry Hall of Fame in 1991, its fifth year. Jere retired in 1991 and served on the board of directors until 1996. John passed away in January 2003.

Jere is past president and board member of the National Association of Convenience Stores and past international president and board member of the Young Presidents' Organization.

Who do you most admire in the convenience store business?
My father, who saw a need. He and Uncle Johnnie Green began in an icehouse in Dallas, and expanded the concept around the world.

What kept you in the industry?
I loved it. We had to be agile. The products we stocked and sold were always changing to meet our customers' needs. We continuously remodeled and updated the stores, signage and advertising to keep the ideas fresh and the customers responded by frequent, even daily, store visits.

What are some of the remarkable things you've experienced while in the industry?
Witnessing the growth of individuals in the company so that we could promote them to take on more and more responsibility. Their individual growth was very rewarding and allowed us to expand in other parts of the country.

Describe one of the funniest things you've seen over the years in the industry.
An armed robber came into a store one day and asked to purchase some cigarettes. He produced a $20 bill and the clerk placed the money into the store's time release safe. The man then pulled out his gun and told the clerk that it was a robbery and to give him all the money. As a rule, there was only $15 in the cash register. The clerk gave him that money. He asked for his $20 back, but the clerk told him he would have to wait a few minutes until the safe released it. The robber left. We made money on that transaction!

In what ways has the industry changed that you didn't anticipate?
In our case, the company-operated stores and the franchised stores. With the [1963] acquisition of Speedee Marts on the West Coast, we learned the franchise-store system and this allowed us to go into different areas of the country.

In your opinion, what has had the biggest impact on the c-store industry in the last 40 years?
Gasoline was the single thing that most dramatically impacted the convenience store industry.

Is there anything you'd like to re-do during your time in the convenience store industry?
I would re-do the timing of trying to take 7-Eleven private when we did because the stock market collapsed before we could complete the transaction.

What c-store product from the past or present do you like the most?
Slurpee, Big Gulp, coffee and all flavored water. The gross margins were higher on these products than any other.

What c-store product do you dislike the most?
Adult magazines, which were removed from all 7-Eleven stores, as well as cigarette papers, which were not used for rolling cigarettes. Both had a detrimental effect on our stores and public relations throughout the country.

Which businessperson do you most admire?
My father, who started the industry. Additionally, our company provided a career and a living for so many people, not only in Southland/7-Eleven in the U.S. and Canada, but also around the world.
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