Alexanders sell convenience stores to Stelmach, Dvorak

Esther Noe
Victor and Sherryl Alexander bought their first convenience store and gas station Fourth of July weekend in 1985. At the time it was a Phillips 66 and owned by Sonny and Mary Schriner. In 1989 it became the Exxon. 
Several additions took place at the Heart of the Hills Exxon since then, including the laundromat, deli and video lottery casino. Of this, Victor said, “The more we added on to it, the better the response from the public.” 
A few years later, the Alexanders used one of their properties to build the Heart of the West Amoco in 1996, which eventually became the Heart of the West Conoco.
Come fall of 2019, the Country Store at Three Forks was for sale. The Alexanders were only one of many interested buyers. However, interest dropped when COVID-19 hit, and the Alexanders purchased it Fourth of July weekend in 2020. 
While the purchase was a good investment for their enterprises, Victor  said “We were really busy before that, and it just jumped things to another level of busyness.”
It took time to catch up on things and get the business running up to speed. At the same time society changed, and there was a shortage of employees. Victor said it seemed like they were always just a “notch behind” until recently. 
“Now we’ve got to this juncture, and we’re selling the three of them,” said Victor. 
The idea of selling the three convenience stores never really crossed Victor’s mind.
“I told myself philosophically over the years, ‘If I’m healthy, I’m going to keep doing what I'm doing.’”
However, Victor also said that in the last few years his wife, Sherryl, wanted to be less busy and take more time.
“We’re just busy, and she thought we should become less busy,” said Victor. 
So Victor and Sherryl, along with their son, Jason Alexander, daughter, Stacia Peters, and son-in-law, Jason Peters, agreed that if the circumstances came out right, they would be interested in selling. 
“And things did,” said Victor. “They worked out right.” 
The Alexander family reached out to others in the industry and eventually made contact with Chris Dvorak and his brother-in-law, Matt Stelmach. 
At the same time, Stelmach was looking for a business to buy. Meanwhile, Dvorak had experience running convenience stores since his family owns the BJ’s Country Stores across the Black Hills, which were originally started by his grandparents. The Alexanders contacted them around Christmas, and Stelmach and Dvorak took ownership of the three convenience stores May 16. 
“I think we found the right people to do what we think is right for our community,” said Victor.
Previously, Stelmach was an infantry officer in the Marine Corps for about 10 years, and he said, “I from a very early age was leading teams in kind of chaotic situations.” 
After he got out of the Marine Corps, he ran small businesses. Because of this experience, Stelmach said he understands how to balance a team, community and customers. 
As things are transitioning, there is a lot of work to be done. However, Stelmach said, “The Alexanders have been incredibly helpful and supportive through the process.”
They have provided insight, mentorship, coaching and continued support. Stelmach is seeing the same support from the employees at the convenience stores. 
“The team has been really supportive through this process. We’ve got great people who work at all of these stores. We’ve got a great team across the board. Those team members have been very receptive, helpful, hard-working, patient and focused this whole time,” said Stelmach. 
Stelmach continued to say that change and unknowns can be frightening, especially regarding your job and livelihood. 
“I really appreciate the trust that they’ve put into me,” said Stelmach. “For something that is as well established and big as this is, everybody’s been super helpful.”
The Alexanders are working alongside Stelmach and Dvorak to make sure nothing is missed in the transition. Stelmach said that this is a testament to how much everyone cares about the transition going well so the stores can continue serving the community.
Stelmach added that he could not do it without the support of the Alexander family, the team and his family.
Meanwhile, as things are in transition, Stelmach said he would appreciate the patience of the community as things are updated or temporarily down. He recognizes that these convenience stores are a staple for the community and wants to make sure they can continue to serve the people. 
“We’re working really hard to make sure that we have a smooth and seamless transition,” he said. 
Along those lines, Stelmach also recognizes that the convenience stores serve as a “welcoming party to the millions of people coming here every year.” As a result, the employee interactions, quality of the stores and services offered are a part of the way people will remember Hill City. 
“That’s an incredibly important responsibility to us,” said Stelmach. “We’re going to put a ton of effort into making sure that we get that right.”
Stelmach is excited to serve the community, see the stores continue to develop, meet the people of Hill City and for the “wild” summer ahead.
“I had a real sense of purpose and mission while I was in the Marine Corps, and when I got out, it’s difficult to find that purpose and mission again,” said Stelmach. “But I can already see that I found it here. Personally, it’s really fulfilling to have that mission of customers, community, team that we’ve got here in Hill City.”
The existing names of the stores will remain the same, and there will be no changes in the immediate future. Rather, Stelmach hopes to continue the legacy of the Alexander family by serving the community, customers and team members. 
“As this community continues to grow as it has, we will continue to grow and serve those needs and do it really well,” said Stelmach. 
Victor also wanted to personally thank his wife, children and son-in-law for supporting his passion and growing into their current roles. Without them, he could not have done all this.
“A big thank you to them for putting up with the stuff that we do for a community,” said Victor. 
Stelmach said, “I’d similarly like to thank my family, the team, community and the Alexander family for everybody’s help and support through this whole time.” 
Things will be different for Victor, but he still plans on sitting at the south booth in the Exxon. He said it feels interesting and weird to now check-out at the counter, and he will miss the thousands of social interactions that come with being there.
However, Victor also said that selling the convenience stores will lessen his responsibilities. It will allow them to focus more on real estate, enjoy running their other businesses and do what they love to do but still have time to do other things. 

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