A Journey From War-Torn Streets to NACS Chairman

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A Journey From War-Torn Streets to NACS Chairman

By Linda Lisanti, Convenience Store News - 10/16/2015

LAS VEGAS — Growing up on the streets of Beirut, Lebanon, during a 15-year civil war taught 2015-16 NACS Chairman Jack Kofdarali how to be sharp, act fast, develop great instincts and have courage.

What Kofdarali did not know back then is how these same skills would ultimately help him to be successful in business. His company, Corona, Calif.-based J&T Management Inc., is one of the largest ampm convenience store operators in the United States.

Speaking during the 2015 NACS Show closing general session, Kofdarali recounted his family’s journey from the war-torn streets of Beirut to opening their first convenience store in the United States, and the courage it took for his parents to leave everything behind.

“I marvel at what my father did. He’s my idol,” Kofdarali said, explaining how at just around the age he is now, his father had to leave his successful lumber business behind and start all over again.

The newest NACS chairman said the convenience store industry is full of similar stories of risk, and he urged attendees to get better by reaching outside their comfort zones and testing their limits.

Noting that the biggest change today vs. when he started in the business in 1980 is the regulatory environment, Kofdarali also urged attendees to get involved in advocating for the industry on the legislative level. He specifically pointed to the NACS In Store program.

“Going to Congress is one way to tell our story. Another way is to bring Congress to you,” he said.

The NACS In Store program brings convenience and fuel industry retailers, members of Congress, and communities together by offering U.S. legislators the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of local c-store operations. Elected leaders visit stores in their district and work behind the counter to learn about the convenience store industry and interact with customers.

Kofdarali hosted two of the 30 NACS In Store events held in 2015, one with Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) and one with Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.).

“This is turning out to be one of the most successful programs at NACS,” he said. “Members of Congress get it. They both took away aha moments. We’re no longer simply a number or just an issue they’re voting on. We have become a person in their district and a business that is part of the community.”