Post-Sale, Jay Ricker Reflects on the Past & Looks Toward the Future
ANDERSON, Ind. — Ricker Oil Co. founder Jay Ricker wasn’t looking to sell his chain of 56 Ricker’s convenience stores in Indiana when Giant Eagle Inc. came to him with an offer to buy. It was a look at the future of the c-store industry as a whole that opened his mind to the possibility of selling.
"It made sense to,” said Ricker, who was inducted this fall into the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame. “If you don't grow at a substantial rate, I think you're going to get left behind."
On Dec. 4, Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, operator of GetGo Café + Market convenience stores, took ownership of the Ricker’s chain. There are currently 200 GetGo locations throughout Indiana, western Pennsylvania, Ohio, northern West Virginia and Maryland.
The Ricker's acquisition provides Giant Eagle with additional scale in Indiana, as well as opportunities to leverage the strengths of both the GetGo and Ricker's brands. Ricker's President and CEO Quinn Ricker, Jay’s son, joined Giant Eagle to oversee operation of the Indiana properties.
Giant Eagle President and CEO Laura Karet said the vision is to create the “leading food-first convenience retailer in Indiana” by bringing together the best of Ricker's and GetGo.
With the change in ownership, Jay Ricker entered into retirement — but only partially. While he wants to travel and spend time with his grandchildren, he doesn't envision a complete retirement. He expects to continue being involved in the industry and is looking forward to seeing more of the coming changes.
"I want to see what's going to happen to fuels," he said.
His time as chairman of the Fuels Institute, a nonprofit research-oriented think tank that evaluates market issues related to vehicles and fuels, has allowed him to be involved with more than just fuel and convenience retailers; he’s been exposed to people from academia and suppliers he wouldn’t normally interact with at Ricker's.
He predicts a fuels landscape that is different from what exists today, but not one that's uniform across the country.
"I think there's going to be a cocktail of different fuels depending on where you are, depending on infrastructure," he said.
Reflecting on his career and accomplishments, Jay said he is certainly proud of building a successful business from the ground up. He and his wife Nancy launched Ricker Oil Co. in 1979. When it began operations, it was a small jobber. Nancy ran the office and he drove the tank wagon. Over the next nearly 40 years, the company acquired five oil companies and opened 56 Ricker’s stores, while Jay made a name for himself as a well-regarded leader in the convenience retail channel.
The achievement he is most proud of, however, is the people who worked for Ricker Oil.
Early on, quite a few employees had only a high school diploma or GED, and many were the breadwinners for their household. By investing in people who were willing to work hard and show what they could do, the company cultivated a group of longtime employees that included many managers and district managers who started out as cashiers.
The path upward wasn’t necessarily restricted to in-store roles, either. Ricker recalled how the individual who runs the company's IT department never received his degree but took courses and educated himself based on the chain's technical needs.
"It makes me really proud to see people like that be very successful," he said.
Click below to download our full profile on 2018 Hall of Famer Jay Ricker, “Building a Legacy.”