Jim Fiene started his c-store career as a thirdshift worker at a Speedway SuperAmerica store while studying cinematography at a Milwaukee technical college. He dreamed of one day making movies as a big-time Holywood director, but he soon realized the convenience retailing industry provided all the drama and excitement he could ever want.
"I thrive on change and it's exciting the way this industry is constantly evolving," says Fiene, senior vice president of 30-store Open Pantry Food Marts of Wisconsin (Pleasant Prairie, WI). "I tell our associates there is only one thing I can promise them: change. It's great doing different things month to month."
After rising through the store-level ranks of SSA to become a store manager, Fiene seized an opportunity to move to Chicago as a district manager for Thorntons. He stayed with Thorntons for 18 years, moving from merchandising to operations and finally to vice president of retail sales. Fiene credits these companies with giving him the experience he needed to find his place in the industry.
Having "made it" in a big city like Chicago, Fiene jumped at the chance to return to Milwaukee when an opportunity called him home. After speaking with Open Pantry President Robert Buhler, Fiene realized he'd fit in perfectly with Buhler's vision for the company.
Since coming on board, Fiene has worked to create a new image for Open Pantry by crafting a store concept centered around the company's branded Willow Creek coffee program that looks and feels more like a martini bar than a convenience store (see Open Pantry's 'Golden Egg,' p. 8). He has also guided the company toward an upscale sandwich program and higher-end Starbucks-like pastries. Next up on Fiene's plate: introducing a proprietary made-to-order burrito program called the Open Pantry Sante Fe Caf.
"I do wear a lot of hats in this company, but I'm just a conduit of ideas forour people," he says. "They all want so much for this company; I simply trustthem and their decisions. A lot of my personal success has been driven by peoplethat believe in me. I want our people to have that same experience at Open Pantry."