U-Totem Stores were dotted all over the Southwest United States and Florida from the 1960s to the 1980s. They had a history of being the first convenience stores also to offer a gasoline fill-up at the same location as where you did your convenience shopping. They also gave drugstores a run for their money. The brand’s name carried a dual message. The convenience store model where “you tote ’em”, and the logo, which featured a totem pole.
LeRoy Melcher (1912-1999), led U-Totem throughout the 1950s from only a dozen stores to nearly a thousand, spread across more than a dozen states. During that period, Herb Ralston ran a U-Totem in Webster, Texas (a Houston suburb). He was the first that offered gasoline pumps at a convenience store.
U-Totem joined Fairmont Foods in the late 1960s. Fairmont Foods was a food processing and distribution company based in Omaha, Nebraska. Fairmont Foods owned U-Totem for over a decade, during which time the company expanded rapidly and became a major player in the convenience store industry.
Chains, such as Stop-n-Go, and 7-Eleven were by then providing stiff competition to U-Totem. in 1983, U-Totem joined Circle K stores, which was to become second only to 7-Eleven in size.
Circle K is a convenience store chain that was founded in 1951 in El Paso, Texas by Fred Hervey. He started out buying out three Kay’s Food Stores in El Paso. He soon changed the brand to “Circle K”. The company grew rapidly, and by the mid-1960s, there were over 300 Circle K stores in operation. In 1979, Circle K was acquired by the Canadian convenience store operator, Alimentation Couche-Tard. Circle K is nearly as prominent as 7-Eleven today and has stores in many countries.
- Year Started: 1953
- Year Ended: 1983
- Origin Of Name: Like “You tote them” and a totem pole
- Location Sales: Southwest USA
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: Circle K
- Owner Original: LeRoy Melcher
- Owner While In Use: Fairmont Foods
- Owner Successor: Circle K
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Circle K
- Naics Code: N/A
- Location Headquarters: El Paso, Texas, USA