FROM FOUNDER AND OWNER OF TREX MART, Lowell Hartell:
"I originally got into the convenience store business accidentally when I entered into a partnership with Curt Cook and Karlton Nash to buy an old Stuckey’s store that had been closed for some time. None of us knew anything about the business but we thought that surely we could make a go of it. All three of us had other careers and didn’t really want to spend much time with the day to day operations.
We hired a manager and did some renovations and opened our doors in June of 1988. The name of our store was KCL Express, (using the first initials of our names.) I remember the date well because my first child was born a few months later. It was an instant success, or at least we thought it was until about a year later when we realized our manager didn’t really know any more about managing a convenience store than we did.
We had lost quite a lot of money in the first year and I decided that I needed to learn more about what we were doing so I started coming in early each day to help with the bookkeeping and learn more about the operation. It wasn’t too long after that that I decided I wanted to do it full time. So, after agreeing to buy the other two partners out (which wasn’t too hard because things hadn’t gone exactly the way we had hoped), I quit my day job as a banker and took a tremendous pay cut to start into a life of entrepreneurship.
The first few years were a struggle and looking back I can’t believe I was as persistent as I was because I think I made no money for at least five years if not ten. And to top it off I kept pursuing expansion and achieving some success acquiring other sites that had or were in the process of failing. For some reason I was always optimistic about the future, even though my experiences were not necessarily grounds for that belief.
Slowly things started to come together and after the third store I changed the name to Travel Express which was then later shortened to Trex. (The first two letters of each word). As I continued to grow the business, “I” became a “We,” That’s what happens to an organization when it gets bigger. My role changed and no longer was I standing behind the cash register. Instead, I was helping other people run the stores and trying to lead them as best I could. It was just as challenging as running the store and with it came a whole new set of problems and learning. Today my role is the leader of an organization that employs over 200 people and runs over 15 businesses.
It is fun to be involved with so many great people and to try to continually improve our business. In today’s world, change is a necessity and comes about quickly. Trying to keep pace with our world requires constant attention. We at TREX have a culture that holds us to certain standards and behavior. It is something that at the end of the day I am most proud of. The culture of TREX is all about attitudes, behavior and values. The expression “Do The Right Thing” embodies everything that we are about. Honesty, Pride, Teamwork, Positive attitudes, Fairness, Friendliness and having Fun. Always wanting to be better and doing a good job at it. This Culture moves us forward and in the right direction."