Minit Stop marketing manager Kim Robello continues to chart new waters
By Hilary Reeves
Kim Robello graduated from high school on the Hawaiian island of Oahu in 1978. He immediately went to work as the graveyard cashier for a local 7-Eleven, and never looked back.
“I’ve been in the convenience-store business all of my working life.”
Robello was the only one of four children to be born on the mainland. His father, a career U.S. Marine, moved back and forth, and just so happened to be stationed in Barstow, Calif. when Robello was born. The family moved back to Hawaii in 1968.
“My mother was a very proud, but generous and gracious Hawaiian,” he said. “She taught elementary school, and specialized in teaching kids who were rough, on the edge, who didn’t want to be in school. My father always said my mother made no money teaching because she spent so much of what she earned on her students, who didn’t have much. She made sure we studied hard, showed compassion and empathy toward others, and always lived our lives with Aloha.”
Robello said he learned from his mother an empathetic approach – something he employs to this day when confronting adversity.
“When dealing with others, you have to always look at a given situation with empathy for that person’s position and try very hard to work out a win-win situation,” he explained. “Sometimes circumstances don’t allow this, but if I try hard to understand the other person’s issues and challenges, they know I had their best interests in mind and that I dealt with them honestly and fairly.”
Robello’s father went to war in Korea, in addition to three tours in Vietnam.
“If you asked him what he did during those tours, he would only say that he was glad to be home knowing his family and fellow Americans were safe.”
After landing the 7-Eleven cashier job when he was 18, Robello was soon promoted to Store Manager. He “took a beating” during his first management stint and decided to step back to learn more about the industry. After a year as an assistant manager, he was again promoted to a store manager position at 7-Eleven when he was 19. Then a training manager. After 10 years with the company, he left to join Pacific Resources, now known as Tesoro, where he worked as a supervisor for just 10 days before he was awarded the position of Convenience Store Coordinator. He later accepted the position of Operations/Marketing Manager, and took over marketing as his full-time position after the company acquired an additional 33 stores.
“I always wanted to live on a neighbor island, and when given the chance by my old boss from Tesoro, along with Jim and Kimo Haynes (former owners of Minit Stop), I jumped at the chance to work for Minit Stop on beautiful Maui as the Marketing Manager. I’ve been at my current position for 16 years. When Saltchuk purchased Minit Stop, I was a little hesitant, as working for the Haynes family was wonderful, but the change to Saltchuk turned out to be equally wonderful, albeit a bigger family operation.”
Minit Stop is a popular chain of convenience stores known throughout the islands for their fried chicken and Aloha – Robello clearly serves as inspiration for the latter. He said the best thing about his job is the challenge of keeping the company relevant in the small marketplace.
“We’re a small, but feisty group,” he said. “When the bigger companies try to match up with us, they know we’re all-in and ready to rumble. My biggest challenge is not to miss opportunities when they present themselves, simply because I’m not watching. I don’t want to fail my team. But the Minit Stop team sees what I can’t, and together we don’t miss much.”
Robello regrets not attending college after high school, but believes that everything happens for a reason.
“My school counselors thought college would be wasted on me, and I believed them,” he said. “I wish hadn’t taken their advice and had gone to college, if not for the experience than for the education and leg-up it would have provided me. That said, the ‘school of hard knocks’ worked for me, though I met and received help from a lot of good folks. I’m proud to have made my parents proud, and blessed that my children have done the same for me.”
Robello is close to his brother, a retired U.S. Air Force veteran and Federal fireman; his sister, a loan officer; and another sister, the “free spirit.” He and his wife of 37 years are the proud parents of a son who works as a hospice care management nurse, and a daughter, the mother of Robello’s three grandchildren.
“I also have five Chihuahuas, who are a pain,” he laughed. “Really, my family is my hobby, along with my reason for living. By family, I mean my immediate family in addition to all the people I’ve met in my life, who are my ‘Hanai’ family. If they’re happy, I’m happy.”
Robello’s latest claim to fame was starring as the voice of the Saltchuk Hawaii video. He said he hopes to finish his career at Minit Stop.
“I hope to continue to make Minit Stop a profitable entity, and retire from the company with good memories, knowing I have it 110 percent,” he added. “Minit Stop was built on family values, and continues to be successful because Saltchuk operates with the same train of thought. Hawaii folks in general are welcoming, compassionate, and generally want you to be part of the Hawaiian Ohana. You can’t just say ‘Aloha,’ you have to live it.
“I’ve been very blessed in my life,” he concluded. “I have a wonderful immediate and Hanai family; I live in peace and tranquility in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I have my health, and I’m gainfully employed at a very good company. If other folks had half the blessings I have, they would have a lot.”