At Stewart’s, employee ownership is making convenience-store millionaires: “Stock for the privately held company, which employs more than 4,500 people, has boomed this decade, rising 66 percent between 2011 and 2016, according to annual reports filed with the U.S. Labor Department. Stewart’s workers, who own almost 40 percent of that stock through a company retirement program, have been riding high along with it.

Stock that was valued at $152.40 a share in 2011 had increased to $253.21 by 2016, the most recent year that federal reports were available. Now, there are 67 current or former long-time Stewart’s workers with retirement balances of more than $1 millon in the Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP), according to Stewart’s President Gary Dake. Nearly a third of these millionaires started out as hourly employees, and over a third are still working at their positions, he said. About 1,000 current or former workers have balances of more than $100,000, he added.

The program is entirely company-paid, and costs workers nothing. ‘We are very pleased to make this investment in our partners and have an average of six ESOP members per shop,’ said Dake. ‘We are doing this when so many other retailers are trying to automate their employees out of contact with their customers by replacing them with electronic ordering, or self check-out.'”

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