Longtime C-store Industry Exec Rich Mione to Retire at End of Year
WILMINGTON, N.C. — After a 46-year career in convenience retailing, one of the industry’s leading marketing executives plans to retire at the end of this year. Rich Mione is leaving Richmond, Va.-based GPM Investments LLC to spend more time with his family in Wilmington.
“It feels like the right time [to retire],” Mione, who spent the past six years with GPM, told Convenience Store News. Mione has served on the CSNews Editorial Advisory Board for more than two decades.
The 65-year old convenience channel veteran started his retail career as a stock clerk with Open Pantry Food Marts in Michigan. Within six months, he was promoted to store manager.
“Retail felt pretty good to me but, at the time, I didn’t think convenience stores were going to be my career. But it just grew on me,” he recalled.
Mione quickly advanced up the organization in numerous roles — from supervisor of eight to nine stores, then as regional manager with responsibility for 30 stores, then all of Michigan. From there, he was named vice president of operations for the chain, which operated 60 stores at the time. He also held positions in real estate — from finding locations to opening new stores — and marketing.
By the early 1980s, Mione had developed a passion for marketing.
“The industry was growing so rapidly, and it was so entrepreneurial. I loved it,” he said.
He moved to Roanoke, Va., to work in marketing when Canada-based Silverwood Dairy (Mac’s Convenience) purchased the Michigan stores and the Hop-in Food Stores chain in the Southeast. This led to Mione’s love of the Southeast and serving in marketing positions with Crown Petroleum, Fast Fare, and the Worsley Cos.’ Scotchman Stores in Wilmington in 1996.
Scotchman was eventually sold to the private equity group, Sun Capital Partners, which owned Marsh Supermarkets and Village Pantry convenience stores, creating the VPS Convenience group from the combination of Scotchman and Village Pantry.
GPM Investments’ first major purchase was in 2013 with the acquisition of Mione’s Southeast division of convenience stores. This included 263 stores, including such brands as Scotchman, Young’s, Li’l Cricket and Everyday Shop. GPM went on to buy the rest of the Village Pantry stores from VPS Convenience shortly thereafter.
“We had 205 stores when I joined [GPM]. Today, we have 1,260 stores, including our two most recent acquisitions, E-Z Mart and Town Star stores,” said Mione. “It’s been a wild ride of acquisitions and new markets for us.”
Incorporating 1,000 new stores over six years with limited staff says a lot for Mione’s knowledge, leadership and resilience.
His career has been filled with gratifying moments. Recently, he was presented with the Silver Beaver award from Boy Scouts of America— the highest honor the Scouts give for volunteering efforts. Also, in July 2019, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the South Carolina Association of Convenience Stores. He’s been on their board for 29 years and served as association president three times.
Asked to name the biggest or most significant change he’s seen occur in the c-store industry during his career, Mione responded, “A lot of people would say it’s the growth of foodservice, but you have to remember that many companies started in this business as dairies and a lot of these chains had fairly advanced foodservice programs. Delis, for example, were a staple of convenience stores in Michigan and the Midwest when I started in this business. In the 1970s, we had fresh sandwiches, fresh bakery and hand-dipped ice cream.
“The biggest change in my mind has been the rapid consolidation of the retailer, wholesaler and manufacturer sides of the business,” he continued. “Look at how the CSNews Top 100 list has changed over the past four decades — it’s shocking and a little disappointing to see so many true entrepreneurs leave the business.”
Interestingly, the person who had the most influence on Mione’s business success wasn’t a fellow retailer, but rather the mayor of his hometown of Niles, Mich.
“He taught me things that helped make me successful. Things like how to read people, how to treat people with respect, how to be a better negotiator, and the benefits of being firm but fair,” he said.
Mione also credits the c-store industry’s many networking events for providing important insights and lessons that he could apply to his business.
“This industry has been so filled with entrepreneurs who are open and willing to share their experiences,” he said. “Just one example has been my time on the CSNews Editorial Advisory Board where I first met Chris Girard (chairman of Oregon-based Plaid Pantry convenience stores). His advice and business tidbits on conference calls and at board meetings helped me throughout my career,” he noted.
Looking ahead, Mione expects to see the c-store industry continue to embrace technology. “And we’ll see more competition from the fast-growing dollar, drug and value store channels,” he added.
He is concerned that the industry is over-stored. “Some stores have to close,” he said.
He also feels the c-store industry has to take more risks and get back to being entrepreneurial.
“We’ve done a pretty good job of improving our foodservice operations, but we need to do better with other categories and the center store,” he asserted. “Other than foodservice, we’ve become very conservative. Other channels are reacting to the market and to the consumer quicker and taking share away from us. They are the risk takers that our industry used to be”
After retirement, Mione plans to stay active, and may do some work in the industry. But mostly he will enjoy his time living on a golf course with his wife, Kathy, and spending more time with his five grandchildren.