The Legend of John Dan Gielen – Out to Lunch – It’s Acadiana
Acadiana is known for many things. From the outside, it’s mostly zydeco and alligators. But when you live here, one of the things you appreciate most is the pace of life itself. Folks take time to stop, talk, and listen to each other. So, it’s ironic that this relaxed attitude has produced one of Louisiana’s most successful and innovative businessmen whose businesses are all about speed and convenience.
John Dan Gielen is Chairman of the Board of Shop Rite – the gas station convenience stores he started in 1969 – and Tobacco Plus, a chain of tobacco stores he started in 1991. Today, Shop Rite and Tobacco Plus are in 59 locations in central and South Louisiana. And John Dan’s empire has expanded to over 1,000 locations in 6 states – through his convenience store supply company, Church Point Wholesale.
As vibrant as ever, John Dan talks to Peter Ricchiuti on the anniversary of his company’s 50th year. Although he’s retiring and unassuming, John Dan Gielen is literally a Louisiana business legend. Part of the secret of his success is buried between the lines of this conversation – a humility and an intelligence married to an attitude that looks forward and a conscience that is completely clear from a lifetime of doing what’s best for people ahead of profit. Ironically John Dan’s philosophy is extremely profitable.
The next generation of Gielen’s is embodied in John Dan’s grandson, Cody. Cody is both John Dan’s “right hand man” and an entrepreneur in his own right with a chain of Another Broken Egg restaurants throughout Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.
The only thing missing from this folksy, unvarnished conversation is the crackle of logs in the fireplace.