Yesway Adds More Manpower to Its Senior Management Team

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Yesway Adds More Manpower to Its Senior Management Team

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Yesway continues to add to its senior management team with the introduction of two industry veterans.

The Midwest-based convenience store chain welcomed Derek Gaskins as senior vice president of merchandising and procurement and Jeff Keune as senior vice president of food service and innovation.

With the addition of these two industry experts, collaboratively assuming and elevating the traditional chief marketing officer role, Yesway aims to redefine convenience store marketing as it continues to drive customer service excellence, the company stated.

"We have spent the past seven years studying industry best practices and given the challenges with and changes to convenience store retailing, we believe that a new approach to convenience store marketing is needed to compete effectively in today's increasingly competitive market," said Thomas Nicholas Trkla, Yesway's chairman and CEO. "We hired Derek and Jeff because of their tremendous experience, creativity, and track record of successful inventive marketing. 

"The traditional CMO role has changed markedly over the past several decades with tremendous advances in technology, changing consumer behaviors, and the changing nature of how convenience stores serve the communities in which they operate. We believe that greater, more focused attention should be given to the three primary pillars of marketing — strong brand management, creative and attractive food service, and relevant and customer-focused merchandising — and that each of these pillars merits dedicated management attention and deliberate implementation," he added. 

With this new structure, Keune and Gaskins — along with Darrin Samaha, Yesway's head of brand management, Tony Sparks, vice president of merchandising, and Frank White, director of food service — will have the increased freedom and flexibility to ideate, innovate, and execute in their respective roles as the firm continues to grow and improve its brand, the company added in its statement.  

"I am confident that with their collective years of experience and depth and breadth of industry knowledge, they, working with the rest of our exceptional management team, will continue to improve our operations and performance, and help us become the exceptional convenience store retailer we aspire to be," Trkla continued.

Yesway's marketing team

As senior vice president of merchandising and procurement, Gaskins will direct all merchandising and procurement efforts, he is responsible for developing relationships with Yesway's vendors, as well as working with Keune and Samaha to further cultivate the growth and stewardship of the Yesway brand.  

He spent the last five-plus years at York, Pa.-based Rutter's, most recently as the convenience store retailer's chief customer officer, as Convenience Store News previously reported. Prior to Rutter's, Gaskins served as senior vice president in marketing & merchandising with Mid-Atlantic Convenience Stores and as vice president of marketing with NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.

Gaskins holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Iowa and an MBA in Finance, Marketing and Real Estate from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. 

In his newly appointed role as senior vice president of food service and innovation, Keune is responsible for expanding Yesway's food service and dispensed beverage offerings. He oversees strategic research and planning to ensure Yesway continues to be a leader in identifying consumer insights and culinary trends, which will create a pipeline of new, innovative and high ROI products to bring to the market, according to the company.  

Keune also leads and directs the company's food quality and safety areas. He brings to Yesway a vast array of knowledge from his extensive background in brand management, marketing strategy and product development for retail, restaurant and consumer packaged goods. 

Most recently, Keune was the principal consultant and partner for the TruthPoint Consulting Group. Prior to that, he was the chief marketing officer for Thornton’s Inc., senior vice president of marketing at Bob Evans Restaurants and a vice president of marketing for Wendy’s International.

Keune holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University and an MBA from Vanderbilt University.  

Rounding out Yesway's marketing leadership team is Samaha as vice president and brand manager, who will continue to lead the charge with respect to the creation, growth and cultivation of the Yesway brand across all channels, the company commented. He is responsible for the launch and management of the Yesway Rewards customer loyalty program, development of digital and social media marketing strategies, direction of the company's media relations efforts, and the creation and execution of its targeted advertising campaigns.  

Prior to joining Yesway, Samaha was chief creative officer and founder of Blue Coda, where he created and built its corporate brand and vision and led the firm's creative teams.

Samaha is a graduate of Tufts University and was recently accepted into the Executive MBA Program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

"We are thrilled to have both Derek and Jeff join our senior management team. I look forward to working closely with them and everyone on our senior marketing team as we continue to strengthen our brand and improve and grow our food service and product offerings," Trkla concluded.

Yesway is the operating brand for BW Gas & Convenience. It recently reached the milestone of 100 convenience stores in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.