Convenience store growth exploded across the nation in the 1960s.
From its early beginnings, the convenience industry was poised to take off. The 1960s represented great changes in America. In 1961, John F. Kennedy became president of the United States and construction began on the Berlin Wall. On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, and that same year on November 22, President Kennedy was assassinated.
Big changes were taking place in automobile development, with the "big three" (Ford, General Motors and Chrysler) dominating the industry. Meanwhile, with the passage of the $33 billion National Highway Act of 1956, a network of regional and interstate roads continued to enhance transportation. As urban areas became more congested, more families migrated to the suburbs. In fact, between 1960 and 1970, 70 percent of the population's growth occurred in the suburbs.
Individual convenience store chains saw this suburban growth as an opportunity to reach new demographics. One prime example: 7-Eleven. By the end of 1961, there were 591 7-Eleven stores in the country. In Midland, Texas, the 1,000th 7-Eleven store was opened on October 3, 1963, and by year's end, 1,052 stores were operating in 250 cities and towns across the United States.
In 1966, the U.S. convenience store industry first recorded $1 billion in sales. By the end of the decade, the industry had recorded $3.5 billion a year in sales.
By the late 1960s, the amount of 24-hour convenience stores increased to meet the needs of a younger population and people who were working late night or early morning shifts. Not surprisingly, the first 24-hour store opened in Las Vegas in 1963.
As for gasoline sales, only 2,500 stores had self-serve at the pump by 1969. It wasn't until the 1970s that retailers realized selling gasoline could be profitable — and competitive.
On August 13, 1961, Speedee Mart founder Henry Boney called on 17 owners, presidents and general managers of convenience stores to attend a meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, because he felt "sufficient growth of convenience food stores throughout the country was such that it warranted the formation of an association to cover that segment of the food industry." Attendees agreed, and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) was born.
Seventeen people attended that meeting. For three days the early NACS pioneers hammered out the newly created association's objectives and elected its officers and Board of Directors. Boney was named president of NACS; Leon Melvin was named vice president; W. C. Metzger became secretary-treasurer; and Frank Kerr, John Gillett and John Roscoe were elected directors.
The founders also asked Harry Hunter, secretary of the San Diego Grocers Association, to become the first executive director. His first objective: Organize an annual meeting in Dallas, Texas, in November of that same year. A total of 50 people attended that meeting, representing 27 convenience store chains and 12 supplier companies. Another meeting took place in 1962 to further organize NACS by forming committees for membership and meeting planning. In 1964, NACS moved its headquarters to Washington, D.C.
The People Pleasing Business
Fighting traffic, aisles, and long lines at a grocery store to get a simple loaf of bread? The solution? The convenience store, as this NACS training movie from 1969 demonstrates.
NACS in the 60s
“And now, in conclusion, a slogan by W.A. "Bill" Riedel, which is synonomous with what this report has said: 'HATS OFF FOR YESTERDAY...COATS OFF FOR TOMORROW'.”
— Harry C. Hunter, Executive Director