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QuikTrip Co-Founder Dies At 84

Mr. Chester Cadieux
Mr. Chester Cadieux

Last updated on June 14th, 2024 at 09:44 am

Mr. Chester E. Cadieux, who co-founded the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based QuikTrip convenience store chain, died Monday at his home in Tulsa. He was 84.

According to a report in Tulsa World, Mr. Cadieux and Burt Holmes opened the first QuikTrip in 1958 in Tulsa. Today, the Cadieux family is behind some 700 QuikTrip gas station and convenience stores across 11 states in the Midwest and South. The company just recently was named to Fortune’s Best Places to Work list for the 14th straight year.

In addition to his place as co-founder, Mr. Cadieux served 45 years as company president and CEO. His son, Chet Cadieux, is now the company’s CEO.

Consistent with a value he instilled in his company—community-mindedness—Cadieux was active in Tulsa, volunteering his time and leadership to various organizations, the World reports.Mr. Chester Cadieux

He was a former chairman of Tulsa United Way and also had helmed its annual fundraising campaign. He had also served on and chaired the boards of Tulsa River Parks and Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa. He had served on the University of Tulsa board of trustees.

Among his honors, he was a member of TU’s Business Hall of Fame, the Tulsa Hall of Fame and Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

Born and raised in Tulsa, Mr. Cadieux was a 1950 graduate of Central High School. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in business administration and then served in the Air Force.

After starting in the printing business, Mr. Cadieux founded QuikTrip in 1958 with Holmes, a former school chum. Holmes, an insurance salesman, had developed the business concept for a convenience store but needed someone to help make it a reality.

Mr. Cadieux talked about his role in previous interviews and in his book, “From Lucky to Smart: Leadership Lessons from QuikTrip.”

“Bert was the entrepreneur. I was the kamikaze. Every start-up business needs a kamikaze—Someone not afraid to work, take risks.”

The duo opened their original QuikTrip location at 5204 S. Peoria Avenue. Things did not go well at first, though, and it was largely from that experience, Mr. Cadieux said, that he coined the company philosophy: “Always do something wrong the first time.”

But after five years, with Mr. Cadieux working nights at the store for $100 a week, QuikTrip had expanded to multiple locations around Tulsa and was poised to make its presence felt regionally.

Mr. Chester CadieuxMr. Cadieux, whose secret, according to the company, was to “hire good people and promote from within,” would lead the chain beyond Oklahoma, expanding and gaining market share across the Midwest and Southeast, helped by being one of the first convenience store chains to be open 24 hours.

“Chester’s vision, keen wit, insistence on fairness and marvelous ability to mentor people will never be forgotten,” QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said in a statement. “He humbly professed to be ‘luckier than smart,’ and over half a century Chester grew a small neighborhood convenience store into a company that is consistently recognized as one of the nation’s best places to work. … His greatest love was for his family. Our hearts go out to them and to all who were touched by Chester’s extraordinary gifts.”

About the author

Shelby Team

The Shelby Report delivers complete grocery news and supermarket insights nationwide through the distribution of five monthly regional print and digital editions. Serving the retail food trade since 1967, The Shelby Report is “Region Wise. Nationwide.”

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  • I worked for QT from 1974 to 1985. This is my most memorable encounter with Chester: it was about providing a needed service to the poor neighborhoods. Not about profits. When closing a profitable store in the most dangerous part of Tulsa, I still recall asking me, where will these folks go for bread, milk, etc. It was an eye-opening moment for me. I could not answer his question at the young age of 23, but I think today I could. It meant a different kind of store. One that provided security for the employees and provide the vital essentials for the neighborhood. Since my role at the time was to create a consistent store model for both the affluent and poor sections of Tulsa I did understand the problem required innovation. I did not see the obvious answer. The obvious answer is one store model does not work everywhere. I think old Chester gave the opportunity to give him the answer he already knew, the dang trees blinded me. I will miss him and am forever grateful for the life lesson I learned. No matter it was some 30 years too late. I feel I let him down.

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