Shop Rite on South Parkerson - 1966
Shop Rite on South Parkerson - Today
“It’s just something I wanted to do.”
John Dan Gielen, a Crowley native, always had the desire to own and run his own local business. That desire manifested when, Mr. Martin, an elderly gentleman who had an old neighborhood grocery store on the corner of South Parkerson passed away. During this time John Dan had to convince his mom and aunt to give him $35,000 to build a store in Crowley on family property, and then rent it back to him. John Dan met with Mr. B.I. Moody, (another Acadiana entrepreneurial legend), who was a friend of his mother’s, for support.
“He’s the guy that kind of told them to give me a shot.”
John Dan may have inherited the envie to own and run such a business from his grandfather who had a little neighborhood grocery store before he passed away in 1952 at only 40 years old. Maybe fate had a hand in what was to come. Many years later, John Dan Geilen learned through a family friend that his father “wanted to open convenience stores because he saw these 7-Eleven’s everywhere in Texas.”
A house and store building were removed from the property on South Parkerson, and construction of the first Shop Rite began. Despite some objections and a few fears, the business opened its doors in 1966 and was based on friendly, courteous, and fast customer service.
Over the years, John Dan continued to open Shop Rite locations across Southwest Louisiana and in the early 1990s began to research a discount convenience store concept that was first seen in the New Orleans market. These sites sold items at reduced prices on key convenience store merchandise such as cigarettes, soft drinks, and beer.
For his next venture, he found an abandoned Fill-A-Sack 2,000, square-foot convenience store in Sulphur, Louisiana. In November of 1992, the first Tobacco Plus site opened with the knowledge and experience of the c-store industry, yet a new frontier of discount cigarettes, tobacco, beer, and wine and spirits.
In 2001, John Dan purchased Church Point Wholesale, which serves as a wholesaler to grocery and convenience stores in six states.
He worked hard over the years to make his business a success and always put others before himself, especially his employees. He was always appreciative of his employees. When someone tried to give him credit for the growth of the chain, he was quick to give credit to the great group of people he had working for him.
“We have great people, I think, and our people work hard, and they have great attitudes.”
“A lot of good people, a lot of help along the way and great mentors,” “Just great people, and great service.”
“It hadn’t been easy all the time, but it’s been a lot of fun,
I’ll tell you that.”
John Dan believed the biggest change seen in the convenience store business (“besides the cost of getting into it? Huge.”), was “the diversification: foodservice offerings, a huge gas presence.”
In addition to gas for the car, tobacco products, fast food, and adult beverages, Shop Rite/Tobacco Plus locations stock a wide range of supplies, including toiletry items, auto supplies, and necessities for the home. Shop Rite/Tobacco Plus Group is in the business of getting the products out to the community in the most convenient way, but service is what brings the customers back.
That said, success still comes down to the people behind the counter and some help along the way. John Dan Gielen loved the industry and lauded his employees for elevating the quality of his stores.
The Shop Rite/Tobacco Plus Group is the largest independently owned convenience store chain in Louisiana, offering fuel, food, payday loans, home supplies, and convenience items to customers. There are 62 stores in operation across Louisiana today, with more than 1,000 employees.
Despite his success, over the years John Dan wanted to make a difference. The Shop Rite/Tobacco Plus Group donates proceeds from their fundraising efforts to support the work in pediatric care being done at St. Jude’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. The funds are raised through several charitable events held at Shop Rite/Tobacco Plus Group’s locations. Employees and customers participate through purchase-with-purchase and percentage-of-sale campaigns and event and program sponsorships, to help a facility that has given so much hope to children facing cancer and other catastrophic diseases.
John Dan Gielen was known as a man that was patriotic and steadfast in his Christian faith. He began every board meeting with a prayer and said a second one for the employees. He never complained or spoke ill of anyone. He was just a special person.
On February 14th, 2018, John Dan Gielen passed away peacefully at his home in Crowley following a brave and courageous battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 79 years old.
He never gave up and worked until the end. He is greatly missed.