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Featured ONSA Members

Chris Gerard

Chris Girard

Chris Girard’s faith in ONSA membership is unequivocal.

The man behind the voice of support for Oregon Neighborhood Store Association and its members, is ONSA Association founder and current chairman Chris Girard. Girard is also chairman, president and CEO of Plaid Pantries, Inc., a regional convenience store company headquartered in Beaverton, Oregon. His company owns and operates more than 100 stores in Oregon and Washington with annual sales of more than $150 million and has more than 700 employees. Drawing on his own experience, Girard’s faith and enthusiasm for ONSA membership is unequivocal.

“There is no one else that gives legislative and regulatory help to small stores but ONSA,” Girard said. “They help us where we need it – with what we do day in and day out - dealing with key product categories such as cigarettes, beer, soft drinks and candy, that simply are not a priority for other retailers.”

Girard, who was born in Waco Texas, began his career in private business in convenience stores and gas stations throughout high school and college. From 1969 through 1976, he served as an Officer and Naval Aviator in the U.S. Navy. His military service included tours of duty in Vietnam and Southeast Asia with Attack Squadron 113, operating from the aircraft carrier USS Ranger.

“My goal to fly Navy jets was behind my getting a degree in Aerospace Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,” Girard said. “I followed that up with post-graduate studies in business administration at Louisiana State and Auburn Universities, which set the stage for what I do now for Plaid.”

“I joined Plaid in early 1989, when the company was experiencing financial difficulties. My management team and I successfully reorganized the company and returned it to profitability. I stayed with the company as CEO to continue Plaid on our solid growth path.”

In addition to having been a contributor to business workshops, educational programs and national legislative efforts, Girard has authored articles in industry trade publications. He served on the Editorial Advisory Board of Convenience Store News, a key industry publication, and was honored as the 1998 retail inductee into the Convenience Store News Industry Hall of Fame. He also served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

In addition to serving as the Chairman of ONSA, Girard is very involved in state and local regulatory, legislative and land-use issues including serving on several committees with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). He was also appointed and served on the Oregon governor’s Task Force on the Alcohol Beverage Industry.

Plaid Pantries, Inc is ranked #48 in the Oregon Business Magazine list of 100 largest private companies in Oregon, and Girard is proud to note that Plaid’s success also extends to key relationships with more than 300 companies that supply and provide services to the company. When asked the secret of his success, Girard’s answer came easy.

“The secret is great people,” Girard said. “I do everything I can to attract them and everything I can to keep them. The answer is great, smart, hardworking people.”

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Lila Leathers-Fitz

Lila Leathers-Fitz

Hard work, good employees and a love for what you do brings Lila Leathers-Fitz success.

A long way from her small home-town of Raymondville, Texas, Leathers Enterprises, Inc. President and CEO, Lila Leathers-Fitz, oversees the company she built with hard work.

Leathers-Fitz, who credits her late mother for her work ethic, further credits the company’s success to the 90 to 100 employees working a combination of service stations, convenience stores and card lock operations in 27 locations throughout the state of Oregon.

“My maternal grandparents were the first members of our family to come to Oregon and they encouraged my mother to follow them,” Leathers-Fitz said. “She raised the four of us by working in the fields and my three brothers and I learned to work along with her. She also taught us how to set goals for everything and how to achieve them. We worked first for a down payment on a house and then moved on to the things we needed to go in it.

“When we got old enough to go to school, she gave us the option of continuing to work with her or going to school and it wasn’t a hard decision for us to choose school. I lived in Boring but went to high school in Sandy and Sandy was where we started our first service station.”

Leathers-Fitz, who started by pumping gas in her first service station, has long since removed herself from that end of the business. Though currently President and CEO of Leathers Enterprises, Inc. and on the board of directors for Oregon Neighborhood Store Association, she has also served as Western Regional Vice President for Petroleum Marketers of America, past President of Pacific Oil Conference, past President of Oregon Petroleum Marketers Association, past Oil Heat Commissioner for the State of Oregon, past President of Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce and has served on the Transportation Committee System Citizens Advisory Council for Gresham. Her involvement in ONSA is dear to her heart.

“Because everything is evolving, there is always so much to learn,” Leathers-Fitz said about today’s business climate. “Just having ONSA as a place to discuss and face some of the issues before us is vitally important. There isn’t any way that a one store operation can make an impact on the legislature, but ONSA with its united front can.”

Today, with son Brent as General Manager and daughter Kathryn as the company’s CFO, Leathers-Fitz knows she can retire when she is ready.

“As long as I still love doing what I do, I’m going to continue,” Leathers-Fitz said. “I love the traveling, the meeting people all across the country, and I even love the challenges. For pleasure, I read books or listen to books-on-tape on anything and everything, I garden, I ride horseback and I trap shoot, like I did yesterday. We just won our second cruise to the Greek Islands for outstanding sales and performance and I’m looking forward to going on that.

“Am I ready to retire? Well, as long as I keep getting to work with wonderful people and I continue to like what I do, probably not.”

For more information about Leather’s Enterprises, Inc. call 503-661-1244, e-mail leathers@teleport.com or visit http://www.leathersfuels.com/aboutUS.html

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