Terry Gallagher, Jr. may very well have oil in hisblood. The first and only president of Boulder, Col.-basedGasamat Oil Corp. dba Smoker Friendly International LLC,Gallagher grew up pumping gas and washing windshieldsunder his father’s watch. He spent college summers getting hishands dirty in the oil fields and refineries, all the while gainingvital knowledge about the petroleum industry. After graduatingfrom the University of Colorado with a degree in mineral landmanagement, Gallagher’s career path was diverted when hisfather bought a retail arm of Gasamat Oil Corp. He decided towork with his family in the field.
“I always intended on being on the exploration and production side of the industry,” said Gallagher. “But my dad offeredme an opportunity to try out retail and I’ve never left.”
When his family purchased Gasamat in 1984, Gallagher hadbeen in the industry long enough to develop his own identitywithin the company. He started as a zone manager and workedhis way up to operations manager, remaining a fundamentalpart of the team.
“To be part of a family business seemed fairly natural anda good opportunity,” said Gallagher. “I got the chance to workwith my brothers and sisters while also having some ownershipover my duties.”
Gallagher switched the Gasamat name to Smoker FriendlyInternational in the mid-1990s. Focusing on tobacco items inthe stores led Gallagher down a non-traditional road and allowedthe company to become an unconventional specialty destinationfor convenience customers. Gasamat simultaneously formeda partnership with a local candy and tobacco distributor outof Boulder. Gallagher saw an opportunity to pull in more salesfrom a specialty category with the help of the small distributor.
“We needed to find a niche to differentiate ourselves fromother c-stores,” said Gallagher. “We’ve always embraced ourgasoline roots and stayed active within the industry. We arealso very active within the tobacco side as well. Tobacco and c-stores go hand-in-hand.”
After testing the new format at some of the Gasamat stores,tobacco sales began to flourish. Even Gallagher was surprised by how much tobacco stores were selling, so he came up with creative ways to market the products.
In 1991, Gallagher formed The Cigarette Store Corp. andeventually merged the retail operations of Gasamat with TheCigarette Store to form one cohesive company. To further thecompany’s hand in tobacco, Gallagher and several tobaccodistributors came together to form the Smoker Friendly brand,which would become a license program that developed cigarettes and tobacco products. Under the licensing program,The Cigarette Store has about 250 stores that fly the SmokerFriendly banner and sell its products.
“Consumers recognize the quality of our house brand products,” said Gallagher. “We supply everything from cigarettes topipe tobacco—anything that can be branded under tobacco.”
While supplying independent operators with the SmokerFriendly products, The Cigarette Store continued to develop intoa special brand of c-store. Many stores have walk-in humidorsand some even host cigar nights where customers enjoy a glassof wine and a cigar. Customers treat the store as their neighborhood stop, a place where managers know them by name andhave their favorite products waiting at the counter.
“We are a very unique c-store experience,” said Gallagher. “Ipride myself on not being a cookie-cutter operation, especiallysince this is something I’ve been building my whole life withmy family. I feel that we cater to the niche customer lookingto enjoy tobacco products while also providing everyone withestablished c-store merchandise.”
Gallagher brought his cousin onboard in the mid-90s as thecompany’s CFO, noting it as a critical move to grow the business. Surrounded by his brothers, sisters and father, his dailyjob is a true family experience.
“Everyone knows their roles,” said Gallagher. “We have toperform or things get tough. But at the end of the day, it’sa family business and I know someone will always havemy back.”
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