Honest, Abe | NACS – Magazine – Past Issues – 2015 – February 2015
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Honest, Abe

​For some reason, Presidents’ Day is a great time to advertise big sales. (And also misuse apostrophes, but that’s a whole different column.) But instead of selling new mattresses or cars, let’s focus on actually celebrating our presidents and their achievements. After all, there are only 44 of them, and we are a relatively young country. (So young that John Tyler, our 10th president, fathered grandchildren who are still alive today. Yes, it’s mind bending but true — at least as of early January 2015.)

If you haven’t stopped reading and “Goggle-d” to verify that last piece of trivia, let me hit you with another one. Both you and Abe Lincoln have something in common: the convenience store industry. Yes, I mean Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. Like many people in the 1800s, young Abe worked for a little while in a general store, which is really what convenience stores were then, albeit slower paced.

But that’s not the big connection to our industry. Abe Lincoln also worked for Wawa. How is this possible, you ask, given that Wawa didn’t open its first convenience store until 1964?

Like many companies in our industry, Wawa has roots that go way back. The company began in 1803 as an iron foundry in New Jersey and transitioned into other industries, from textiles to dairy to convenience. In the 1830s, the business was expanding westward into Illinois. And in 1838, it hired a recently minted attorney in Springfield — one A. Lincoln — to collect on some of its delinquent accounts in claims against customers. Wawa has a few of these letters outlining Lincoln’s work on display in its headquarters.

One out of 44 presidents with a connection to our industry isn’t bad — we are a relatively young industry ourselves — but we may be able to double that total after the 2016 presidential election. After all, we know that one in nine Americans have worked in a convenience store, according to a consumer survey we conducted last year. Might we have similar statistics among the candidates for office? Why not?

To be honest, I think our odds are much higher than one in nine that our next president will have worked in a convenience store, if only for an abbreviated shift. The power of our NACS In-Store program, where we invite elected leaders into stores so that they can learn more about our business and our issues, will make it so. We launched the NACS In-Store program in 2014 to great success. We are dramatically expanding its reach in 2015 (and hopefully, 2016) to many more locations across the country, including a number in states that candidates target for key caucuses and primaries.

It’s just one of many ways that NACS is aggressively communicating on your behalf to your elected officials. As Abe Lincoln one said, “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” And we’re hustling.

Jeff Lenard is the NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. He can be reached at jlenard@nacsonline.com or (703) 518-4272.