Awards Ceremony, Humanitarian Effort Highlight Thorntons’ Annual Meeting

By John Lofstock, Editor

“The work we do everyday to satisfy and exceed our customers’ expectations is a result of the outstanding work of the people in this room and I’m proud to work alongside all of you.”

That was the message sent last night by Matt Thornton, president and CEO of Thorntons Inc., the 164-store operator in Louisville, Ky., during the company’s second annual company meeting.

Close to 400 general managers, regional managers, company executives and corporate sponsors are participating in Thorntons’ 2010 Annual Meeting, which kicked off on Monday and has featured a touching speaker session from Retired Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell, who led U.S. troops in the capture of Saddam Hussein, and an inspirational humanitarian project for soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Knox.

The meeting continued last night with a host of awards for Thorntons’ top employees and its top vendor partner. In all, dozens of awards were handed out wrapping up an emotional third day in Louisville.

Awards and Recognition
Thorntons culminated the awards ceremony by honoring its top regional managers and store general managers. Winners were presented with a choice of prizes ranging from all-expenses paid cruises to dream vacations at popular resorts throughout the U.S.

The top Regional Manager awards went to:

* Zach Mathews, Southern Regional Manager

* Dave Deters, Northern Regional Manager

The top 10 General Manager awards were given to:

10) Gordie “Dee” Ross, Store 62

9) Doug McGehee, Store 122

8) Ron Atkins, Store 22

7) Jim Hood, Store 555

6) Bryan Ritter, Store 369

5) Michael Vallejo, Store 501

4). Christina Knieriem, 157

3) Dawn Yost, Store 86

2) Michael Staples, Store 141

1) “Laurie Leber, Store 303

“These awards show what great people we have,” said Tony Harris, vice president of operations for Thorntons. “I believe I have the best job in the industry because it is such a pleasure to lead a team that works so hard everyday. You make our company great.”

Thorntons’ Vendor of the Year award went to The Hershey Co., identified by Matt Thornton as a “valued, important and trusted partner.” 

Tom Joyce (pictured on right), vice president of customer industry affairs for The Hershey Co., was on hand to accept the award with Dan Vucovich (pictured with Joyce). “There are a lot of great supplier companies in this industry so to receive this award is truly an honor for us,” Joyce told Convenience Store Decisions, which has exclusive access to event.

Supporting the Troops
Awards aside, the highlight of Wednesday’s events was a group trip to Fort Knox to prepare care packages for local troops that will be deployed to Afghanistan in January, and build bikes for children of the troops stationed there.

Every year around the holidays, the Fort Knox American Red Cross’ Helping Hands program opens its doors to allow low income soldiers and their families to “shop” for free toys for their children.  In recent years, there has been a high demand for bicycles. Because of the limited funds, Helping Hands has not been able to meet the demand.

Enter Thorntons.

After learning about the Helping Hands program, Thorntons partnered with the Red Cross to provide 100 bicycles this holiday season. The bicycles were purchased, assembled and donated by Thorntons.

Additionally, 3,500 soldiers will be deployed from Fort Knox in January to give them a little piece of home, the Thorntons team put together 3,500 care packages that consists of snacks and other comfort items. Both the care packages and the bicycles were assembled in under 40 minutes, well short of the two hours the company had allotted to complete the project.

“This is one of those rewarding experience I don’t think anyone here will forget,” said John Zikias, Thorntons’ vice president of marketing (whom I had the pleasure of working alongside to build three bicycles.)

The experience turned emotional when more than two dozen troops and many of their family members joined the effort and roundly applauded the labors of the Thorntons team in a touching show of gratitude.

“As we approach Veteran’s Day this was a wonderful opportunity to give something back to these brave heroes that serve our country and ask for very little in return,” said Harris, who is already considering doubling the company’s commitment to the troops in 2011. “We should all be very proud of what we accomplished here today.”

Thorntons’ 2010 Annual Meeting wraps up today. View the December issue of Convenience Store Decisions for more on Thorntons and exclusive photos of the company’s humanitarian efforts and awards ceremony.

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