Although they did not know each other at the time, both Chris and Suzy were born in DuPage County, Illinois before their families moved to Cedar Rapids. You could say that they first met while attending the same pre-school, although they did not “date” until 6th grade. The two attended the same elementary, middle, and high schools here in Cedar Rapids but ventured to different colleges. Chris stayed local attending the University of Iowa where he received a BA, while Suzy went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison receiving a BS. During their junior, year they studied abroad together in London where they, according to Suzy, needed to make the choice to either make “the commitment” or quit wasting time. Needless to say, they made “the commitment” and got engaged the week between Chris’s and Suzy’s respective graduations. The couple then moved to Milwaukee after living a short time in Chicago as Chris received his MBA from Northwestern University.
While in Milwaukee, Chris held a number of leadership positions within the General Electric Company including corporate finance, operations, acquisition, and business development positions with GE Healthcare. Chris and Suzy had begun their family and with Chris’s job requiring frequent travel, a proposition from Iowa in 1999 became rather appealing. Jim Nikrant, former President of Lil’ Drug Store Products, met Chris in Chicago to discuss his and Suzy’s return to the family business. After initial hesitation, they decided they would give it a try. Chris took a leave from GE and moved to Iowa in February of 2000. He soon realized this was a perfect fit for their family and they all made the move.
Suzy grew up in the Lil’ Drug Store business and even had a summer internship there following her first year in college. The business concept, originally named the XL-800 Distribution Company, was developed in Pella, IA in 1974, and was purchased by Dennis and Donna Oldorf in 1978. The company’s concept was to repackage and sell on-the-go size medications to consumers at their point of need, eventually branching out to sell automotive and general merchandise items. As Dennis and Donna were ready to move on with the next chapter of their lives, they were pleased that the family feeling of the company would not be lost as Chris & Suzy took over. They purchased the company in 2005 and have since continued to grow and diversify the business.
Since Chris and Suzy became a part of Lil’ Drug Store Products, they have seen a nearly 500% growth in annual sales; expanded sales from domestic-only into over 30 countries; expanded from only convenience stores to virtually all food, drug, mass and convenience store locations in the U.S. and most food, drug, and mass retail locations in Western Europe. When asked about the formula to the company’s success Chris would say, “Hire the right people and get the heck out of their way.” He and Suzy are firm believers of hiring people who share their drive and vision and providing them with autonomy and support to achieve greatness.
In addition to their corporate and family focuses, Chris and Suzy are personally invested in making Cedar Rapids a better place. To them, philanthropy is more than being good corporate citizens, it is an innate part of who they are. They are very passionate about instilling this same drive in their children, Riley, Lindsay, and Weston. They are honored to be able to use their business as a catalyst to set an example. Chris is a current board member of the Young Presidents’ Organization, incoming Chair of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, immediate and past Chair of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, and member of the Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa Board of Trustees. In addition to Suzy’s health and wellness initiative she integrated at Lil’ Drug Store, she is on the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees for the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and Orchestra Iowa, Co-Chair of the Sight and Sounds fundraiser, board member for Theatre Cedar Rapids, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Waypoint, sustainer of Junior League, and an active volunteer in their children’s schools.
Chris and Suzy’s teamwork and drive continue to make Lil’ Drug Store Products a leader in their industry and a true asset to the Cedar Rapids area.