At the upcoming NACS Show in Atlanta, NACS Chairman Don Rhoads will end his yearlong chairmanship—but not without one more celebration of the people who make this industry special.
Twice this year in NACS Magazine, we captured road trips on the East Coast and California that Don and NACS staff (Jayme Gough, Chrissy Blasinsky, Jeff Lenard) took to visit stores and meet with the people who bring a smile to customers’ faces, serve their communities—are a part of their communities—and keep stores clean, welcoming, inviting and fun.
Our NACS social channels shared pictures of Don with store teams, an ask that 98% of the time received a positive response. A few were like corporate wouldn’t be down with this, and what is a NACS.
We made new friends, caught up with ones we haven’t seen in a hot minute, and visited with some we see on the regular.
We walked into c-stores we had never been to, and experienced plenty of great food, drinks, coffee, beverages, snacks, confections, an occasional pastry, frozen yogurt, ice cream … everything that proves this social meme as fact: “It doesn’t matter how old you get, buying snacks for a road trip should always look like an unsupervised 9-year-old was given $100.”
Don and I visited 56 stores in five states—Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, California—and eight stores in Ireland during the NACS Convenience Summit Europe. Jayme visited 20 stores on the East Coast, and Jeff visited 36 stores in California.
It’s worth noting that these were the only “supervised” road trips the crew planned. Jeff and I made a handful of planned and unplanned stops while filming for Ideas 2 Go, which kicked off in March. Our count is fuzzy, but it’s somewhere around 10 stores in Louisiana and another eight between St. Louis and Kansas City.
We put in nearly 2,500 miles of drive time, which is a lot of runway to explore convenience stores, gas stations, general stores and the occasional QSR—I could not pass up introducing Jayme and Don to the Bo-Berry Biscuit at Bojangles. Then there was the World’s Largest Chest of Drawers in North Carolina, a failed attempt at visiting a fudge shop in Uranus, Missouri, and a drink at Wolfie's Carousel Bar in San Diego that is a working carousel, but thankfully much slower.
Whether in NACS Magazine or on Convenience Matters, we’ve talked to plenty of fellow road trip explorers and gas station foodies over the years, and you’ll hear from several of them at the NACS Show in Atlanta during the general sessions. But after this summer, we are now road tripping experts and have 10 tips of our own:
- Be flexible. Hidden gems are off an exit you probably weren’t planning take.
- Don’t be “that guy” who won’t stop. Seriously.
- Make a playlist. Don’t underestimate what bad tunes can do to your psyche.
- Try not to eat in the car. You’ll be smelling what you ate till the next destination.
- Watch the fuel gauge. Running low on fuel in California traffic creates a bit of anxiety.
- Go with the flow. Try to enjoy the ride and the company, even in traffic.
- You are not lost. Even if you think you are, remember this: You are still in the same country, the same state, and it will be OK. (See No. 6)
- Clean the trash out the car at every stop and at your destination. The smells add up.
- Wash your hands. I shouldn’t have to explain this one.
- Say thank you, make eye contact, smile and tell everyone you meet to have a great day. They need to hear it.
Labor Day is the unofficial end of the summer drive season, but I’m not convinced. Some of you may be hitting the road enroute to the NACS Show. Tag me and/or NACS in your pictures, show us where you’re stopping. Talk to the people working at stores, convey your appreciation for what they do. Afterall, no road trip would be possible without convenience stores, and convenience stores would not be possible without the people who make them shine.