LAFAYETTE, Al. (The Advertiser)- John Dan Gielen, who built the Shop Rite and Tobacco Plus stores into a Louisiana entrepreneurial empire, died Wednesday.

Gielen, of Crowley, founded his business more than 50 years ago. He also owns Church Point Wholesale, which supplies products to convenience stores in six states.

“It’s just something I love and loved,” Gielen said in a 2016 interview with The Daily Advertiser.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete. The story will be updated throughout the day.

“He was a great businessman and family man and an entrepreneurial legend,” said former state Sen. Nick Gautreaux. “I’m in awe of what he was able to do and all the while giving back to the community.

“He’s a role model all of us aspired to follow.”

Gielen began his company by borrowing $35,000 from his mother and aunt.

“I went and talked to Mr. B.I. Moody (another Acadiana entrepreneurial legend), who was a friend of my mother’s,” Gielen said in 2016. “He’s the guy that kind of told them to give me a shot.”

And the rest is history.

Gielen said service elevated his stores.

“We have great people,” he said in the 2016 interview. “We have a good marketing strategy, I think, and our people work hard and they have great attitudes.

“It hadn’t been easy all the time, but it’s been a lot of fun, I’ll tell you that.”