New Connections

New Connections

September 2021   minute read

By: Kim Stewart

I’m back on the road and in my happy place popping into corner stores. Most recently, I explored downtown Ithaca, New York, home of Cornell University—and host of the NACS Executive Leadership Program, endowed by Reynolds, which I had the opportunity to attend (a shoutout to my 2021 classmates). Wandering around Ithaca Commons the evening of my arrival, I stopped into Casablanca Pizzeria & Mediterranean Cuisine and got a slice of pepperoni and mushroom. The young guy working the counter tried his best to talk me into the chicken shawarma, but I explained that I prefer kabobs. He said he felt the same, but people come in all the time for the chicken. We ended up chatting about Ithaca a bit before I took my slice to eat at a table. When I stood up to leave, he called out, “Goodbye my friend! I hope you have a great week!”

I left and ambled over to Empire Commons Market in search of wine in a can and a late-night snack until sadly, I realized that New York state doesn’t allow c-stores to sell wine. I ended up with an Angry Orchard hard cider. The clerk ringing me up asked, “Do you want to drink it here or to go?” Clever! “To go, please,” I said. He laughed and said, “You got that, huh?”

This was my first time in Ithaca, and I felt at home, all because two guys working on a Saturday night took the time to be authentically human. Smiles and kind words can make anyone’s day—especially for a traveler looking forward to being in class with 30 leaders in the convenience retailing industry from across the Americas.

I felt at home, all because two guys working on a Saturday night took the time to be authentically human.

If the opportunity presents itself, I highly recommend attending the NACS executive education programs. There are five to pick from on leadership topics such as marketing, innovation and finance, including the NACS Women’s Leadership Program at Yale, endowed by Altria, October 26-28 and November 2-4. It’s a virtual program again this year (I attended the 2020 program, and many of the women shared that the virtual experience would have been the only way they could have attended given family demands). For more information on any of the executive education programs, go to or contact Brandi Mauro, NACS education program manager, at [email protected].

Speaking of traveling, NACS has been back on the road the past few months filming all-new Ideas 2 Go segments, and I tagged along for one of them. We can’t wait to introduce you to the folks—and canines—we met and the c-stores we visited along the way. The 2021 Ideas 2 Go will debut at the NACS Show next month, and you don’t want to miss any of it. By the way, I’ll be representing NACS Magazine with Al Hebert, aka, the Gas Station Gourmet, in the education session: “4 Ways to Stand Out as a Small Operator: Tips From the Gas Station Gourmet.” Stop by and say hi!

See you at the NACS Show!

Kim Stewart

Kim Stewart

Kim Stewart is NACS editorial director and editor-in-chief of NACS Magazine. She can be reached at kstewart@