Santa’s Elf at Circle K
By far the thing I like most about being a writer is constantly learning new things. I start at one point and after a bit of research I stumble onto other random, yet at least to me, interesting facts.
Case in point, I will shortly tell you a story about a fabulous employee at a Circle K store on W. Esplanade, who is bringing Christmas joy to many. But first you will discover that the Circle K convenience retailing industry spans more than 60 years. It started when Fred Hervey purchased three Kay’s Food Stores in El Paso, Texas.
During the next few decades, Circle K grew and by 1984, sales had reached $1 billion. In 1999, the Circle K Franchise program was introduced. Since its inception, the program has expanded to more than 650 stores, spanning three separate brands: Circle K, On the Run, and Kangaroo Express.
In 2003, Circle K was acquired by Alimentation Couche-Tard and it developed into a global brand with stores in Saskatchewan, Lithuania and even one or two in Vietnam. Who knew?
“Circle K currently has more than 15,000 locations throughout the world,” says Andre Benoit, regional operations director at Circle K Gulf Coast. “Tenured employees are very beneficial and valued by myself and Circle K. Personalizing relationships with customers is also very beneficial for repeat business.”
And now to the story. No one is better at personalizing relationships than Alan Picard. He’s quite simply a tornado of joy wearing a beaming smile and a snappy tie.
“I’ve done a little bit of everything,” he says. “I started out cleaning up horse shit at age 8, worked construction in high school and for 10 years worked the vending business.”
He started at Circle K 14 years ago. Picard likes working the second shift the best with hours from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. During his shift, 75 percent of his customers are regulars and he greets most of them by name. While selling them beer, cigarettes, Hershey chocolate, gas, lottery tickets or Doritos, he shares corny and sometimes rather blue jokes, romance tips and pithy sports analysis.
“He’s great with the customers and gives me pretty good life advice, too,” says Royshad Jeanpierre, his much younger colleague, who often shares the shift with Picard.
“I can tell when my customers are having a bad day and I try and get them to smile,” Alan says. “I break a couple of jokes and it usually pops a smile or two. So, I’ve done my job.”
For the past five years, during the holiday season, he’s put a plastic jug on his counter to collect money for a variety of charities.
“I try to choose a diverse group of charities to encourage more people to give,” he says. “And then I match that amount and divide between the causes. I’d be giving anyway, and this just increases the amount I can give.”
Last year, he raised a little more than $200, so $400 went to charities. He’ll match up to $500. For the record, his charity of choice is St. Jude’s, to which he donates several times a year.
The charities range from the Louisiana SPCA to Crescent City Task Force. There’s very little doubt in my mind that he’s a member of Santa’s special elf task force.
“I’m happy to do it and it makes everyone feel good.”