First Coast Success: Daily’s founder Aubrey Edge’s next venture is Daily’s Place
You see them all over town, and soon you will see the name on the new amphitheater and flex field at EverBank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The name is Daily’s, which is a brand of Jacksonville-based First Coast Energy, which operates more than 200 Shell stations in Florida and North Carolina. Of those, 33 are Daily’s and two more will open this year.
First Coast Energy will sponsor the amphitheater and flex field as Daily’s Place.
Aubrey Edge, 50, is president of First Coast Energy L.L.P. and its predecessor, Petro Distributing Inc., which was created in 1994.
Revenue now exceeds $1 billion and its workforce tops 1,000 employees.
In 2004, Edge and his partners branded the Daily’s concept, whose motto is, “It’s nicer here.”
Sponsoring the amphitheater and flex field will put the Daily’s name front-and-center in the city’s entertainment and sports industry. How did you and your partners decide to do this?
We think Daily’s Place is going to be one of the best things to happen to Downtown Jacksonville in a long time and we’re very proud to be a part of it. It’s very innovative.
It’s going to be one of a kind, it’s going to be a high-quality product and we think those are things that are all synonymous with Daily’s, so we think it’s a great fit.
What sparked that partnership?
We’ve had a good relationship with the Jaguars for quite some time, and when Shad Khan came in, he brought a new team with (President) Mark Lamping and (Senior Vice President) Scott Massey and many others.
They did a lot of market research in trying to determine who gives great customer service in Jacksonville and the company they kept hearing about was Daily’s.
They called me and one thing leads to another and we became a sponsor. More importantly we put the first convenience store inside an NFL stadium (in 2013) and we’re very proud of that.
Particularly as a football fan, I’m extremely happy about that one. That’s pretty cool.
Daily’s is well-known and that shines the spotlight on you.
I’m not sure that it really should shine a spotlight on me. We have the best employees in the industry.
Our store managers — and everyone in our management team — really embrace what Daily’s is all about in trying to make a customer experience that’s exceptional and living up to our tagline of “It’s nicer here.”
They’re the ones who deserve all the credit.
What brought you to Jacksonville? How did you get involved in starting this?
We had an opportunity to buy a number of BP stations back in late 1993. We had a couple of partners who were putting that deal together. I came in to run it.
It was a lot of work to get a company off the ground from scratch — no operating procedures, no accounting procedures — but you had the operating assets. It’s been nothing but exciting all the way in seeing us grow from that beginning to where we are today.
How did you come up with the name Daily’s?
There was really no meaning behind it. It was part of a brainstorming session.
We had a ton of logos and a ton of names, and we wound up mixing and matching to arrive at Daily’s. It was so comfortable and it really seemed to fit my vision when we developed who we were going to be.
Recently we got some feedback from a family who was on a trip and their 7-year-old daughter was saying, “Can we stop at a Daily’s? I’m really hungry, I want to get a sandwich at Dash.”
They had to explain, “Well, we’re not in a state that has Daily’s.”
She was very disappointed. Kids are brutally honest, and when they like you, maybe we’re on to something.
How did the Daily’s and then the Daily’s Dash fast-casual cafe concept come about?
We knew that we wanted to do something special in the convenience store industry and we wanted to develop our own prototype for a convenience store.
In 2004, we introduced Daily’s and part of what we had as our underlying premise was to always default to what the customer wants and to have an abiding commitment to quality.
We started doing things that were a little different, a little special from what other people were doing at the time.
We introduced high-end wines before some others were doing it in the marketplace. We did things like a gluten-free section before it became very popular to do that.
We’ve always tried to look and see what would appeal to our customers and try to introduce those products before they asked for them, so that we’re constantly trying to deliver a level of customer service and meeting a level of expectation that our customers have come to expect from us.
You’ve been expanding Daily’s and a lot of competitors are expanding, too, including Gate Petroleum Co. and RaceTrac. Now Wawa is coming to town. How competitive is this industry?
Our industry is very competitive. That could be an understatement, actually.
But I think for us at least, the key is to just remain focused on what the customer wants and what the customer is telling us that they want.
You pay a lot of attention to detail. Is that part of your leadership style?
You have to be focused on details, but also have a willingness to change what you’re doing over time and to adapt, and have that constant desire to do things a little better tomorrow than you did today.
That creates a healthy energy that reverberates within our company and that’s what helps us be who we are. It helps us be a little more creative and it helps us deliver exceptional customer service, because we have that energy that pervades our culture.
Daily’s has been expanding and growing. Can you talk about your plans?
We’re in a pretty high growth mode right now. Not only are we building sites in Jacksonville — we have one under construction now, we have two more planned immediately following that —but we’re also bringing the Daily’s brand into South Florida where we have large a portfolio of sites in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Do you see a nationwide expansion?
I’m not sure how far we’ll go, but I will tell you that we are looking to expand within the Southeast.
Where did you grow up and what did you want to be when you grew up?
I grew up in a small town –– Hawkinsville, Georgia –– very modest beginnings. We had no air conditioning and no TV until I believe 10th grade, but I had a great family life and was very fortunate to do well in school.
My parents instilled a good work ethic within me. In fact, one of my favorite quotes is from Thomas Edison who said that “opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
There’s no real substitute for hard work and that led to me getting an opportunity to go to Emory University through scholarship grants because I wouldn’t have been able to afford doing it otherwise.
That broadened who I was as a person coming from a small town. I didn’t really have any specific objectives on who I wanted to be when I grew up.
I’ve always had a strong faith and felt like you do the right things and work hard then things open up for you. That’s happened for me and I’m very blessed.
You and your wife are philanthropic. Talk about what you do within the community.
My wife, Elizabeth, is an incredible person and I depend upon her a lot for advice and support. Both of us feel very strongly about giving back within the community and we love to do things around children.
We’re very fortunate to have two boys of our own ages 18 and 12 — Ryan and Christopher.
With Daily’s we do a lot around children, giving back to the community. We had a situation where we met a family several years back who had a daughter who was 4 years old at the time and had cancer and had come here for proton therapy.
We were fortunate to be able to help make their stay here just a little nicer, a little better while she was undergoing that treatment. We became great family friends.
This young girl had an incredible spirit. Her body’s wracked by cancer and cancer treatment, and yet she was so strong and so special. It made an indelible mark on both of us.
We remain friends with that family to this day and unfortunately she died about three years later. We keep her in mind when we’re doing things, whether with PedsCare or The Boselli Foundation or the Jay Fund.
At Daily’s, we’re really committed to giving back to the community and Daily’s supports the St. Vincent’s Mobile Health Outreach Ministry.
We netted $456,000 last year for that mission.
We support more than 25 schools throughout the area.
We’re very keen on giving back to Jacksonville. It’s our home and we’re very proud of being a part of the community.
What do you do for fun?
I try to spend time with my boys mostly and just be a big kid with them as long as they’ll let me. I am an avid reader, but I think there will be time for golf later on when the boys go to college and get away from home, but right now that’s what I like to do.
What do you like to read?
I like to mix it up, so if you can think of it, I’ve probably read it. I like historical novels, I like history, so I like historical fiction and nonfiction.
I enjoy everything from thrillers to action, to even some science fiction. I can read pretty much anything.
Is there a book you’ve read more than once?
I like (author Ernest) Hemingway and so if I had to pick one of my favorite books it would probably be “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”
That’s one of the few books I’ve read more than once. I always liked the theme of camaraderie and sacrifice for what’s right that runs through this novel.
The title is actually taken from a poem that’s theme is “no man is an island unto himself.” I like that.
Do you have any advice for our community and economic development leaders?
I’m not really sure that I’m qualified to give advice to those guys. I do have a lot of confidence in our leaders.
I think that we have a lot of good guys from Mayor (Lenny) Curry, to strong business leaders, to the City Council members that are really trying to do what’s right for Jacksonville.
I’m very proud in a small way to be a part of that through the Daily’s Place and the revitalization of Downtown Jacksonville. I think that we have some good leadership right now.
What else would you like to share?
We’ve got great growth plans. We’re very committed to this community.
Daily’s Place is going to be incredibly exciting and we want to continue doing what we do within the community and as we grow I think that benefits Jacksonville as well.
Aubrey Edge, 50
President and CEO of First Coast Energy
Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Emory University, 1988.
Reading and spending time with family.
Wife, Elizabeth; sons Ryan, 18, and Christopher, 12
President and CEO of First Coast Energy since its inception in 1997
1994-97: President of Petro Distributing Inc., a predecessor to First Coast Energy
Before 1994: Six years with BP Oil Co., gaining experience in real estate, retail marketing and derivatives pricing/hedging.
• Volunteers as a baseball and flag football coach with his children.
• Boards of the St. Vincent’s HealthCare Foundation and GPC (Growing Parenting Choices) and is chair of the National Wholesale Council for Shell Oil Co.
• Previously served as chair of the Daily’s The Tradition charitable golf tournament that raises money for the St. Vincent’s Mobile Health Outreach Ministry that provides health care to underprivileged children and families in Northeast Florida.
Best advice received
In life: My parents taught me to rely upon my faith as a foundation for everything else.
In business: The secret is that there is no secret. Always learn and try to improve. Everything changes and you must adapt as well.
Biggest career surprise
The evolution of Daily’s to becoming the first convenience store in an NFL stadium (in 2013) and now, to be the partner with the Jacksonville Jaguars in Daily’s Place. That’s so exciting and something that I never envisioned when we were starting out.
Spark of wisdom to share
Nothing replaces hard work. Try to always do what’s right even if it’s the more difficult path, and treat everyone with respect.
I read somewhere that most people think that they know everything that they need to know by age 25 and that’s when they stop seeking to learn more. Never stop learning and growing.
Any decision to take back
I don’t believe in regrets. As long as you learn from mistakes, you keep moving forward.