John Catsimatidis shared his life journey from emigrating to the United States from the Greek island of Nisyros to becoming a self-made billionaire business owner as featured speaker at the Daemen College Distinguished Leaders Lecture Series held on May 9.
Speaking before a capacity crowd, Catsimatidis talked about his family’s history and coming to New York City from Greece with his parents when he was 6-months-old. Growing up in Harlem, he attended New York University but left his studies when only eight credits short of receiving his degree, bought his first grocery store and went on to become a millionaire and owner of 10 Red Apple Supermarkets by the time he was 25.
“If you want to succeed, you have to be innovative and set goals,” said Catsimatidis. “As an example, when I started in the grocery store business, I decided to open the stores on Sundays to be more competitive. That decision was a huge success.”
Today, Catsimatidis’ business empire spans grocery stores, real estate, oil, and aviation. He is chairman/CEO of the Red Apple Group and United Refining Co., which owns more than 300 Kwik Fill gas stations, including many throughout the Buffalo Niagara region. He also owns New York’s well-known Gristedes grocery chain with stores in Manhattan, Westchester and Brooklyn.
He pointed to his personal belief of “failure is not an option” as his foundation for success. “Working harder and doing what you need to do to succeed is an option,” he said.
As head of United Refining, Catsimatidis emphasized the importance of the U.S. becoming “energy independent. We can reach this goal, move product efficiently and use oil with a combination of alternative sources of energy.”
Catsimatidis, who has been a strong supporter of the Police Athletic League for more than 30 years, said mentors are vital in achieving success. “Seek out multiple mentors who are successful and will give guidance and advice that will make a difference in your life,” he said.
In looking ahead, Catsimatidis has a positive outlook on the future for the U.S. “I believe in America,” he said. “Working together, we will keep our country moving in the right direction.”
You can read more about John Catsimatidis in a story recently published in The Buffalo News.