JC Seneca: Fueling the Economy, Even Amid COVID-19

JC Seneca in front of Native Pride Travel Plaza, located on prime real estate, off Exit 58 on the New York State Thruway I-90. Native Pride offers fuel pumps, a convenience store and diner, the latter limited to take-out only amid COVID-19. (Photo by Nicole Seneca)

A business operated by a Seneca Nation entrepreneur is giving its employees a retroactive pay raise.

JC Seneca, founder of Six Nations Manufacturing, Native Pride Travel Plaza and BUFFALO Cigarettes, is rewarding workers at his gas station and travel plaza with a $2 per-hour pay increase, retroactive to March 16. 

The pay hike serves to compensate his staff who are faced with increased traffic at the convenience store, and the cumbersome logistics of social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That spacing between customers has caused typical 20-minute roadside stops by truckers and travel plaza visitors to turn into 2-hour layovers, Seneca told  Buffalo Business First.   

The raise will run through at least through May 3, Seneca said. 

Seneca, a serial entrepreneur, started his first business in 1987 — selling 60 cartons of cigarettes from his camper. 

Eventually, that retail operation turned into a 50-acre property and truck stop called Native Pride Travel Plaza, which today houses a smoke shop, gas station, high-speed Diesel pumps and a popular diner in Irving, New York. That diner is currently open for take-out only amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Seneca also developed and trademarked his own brand of cigarettes: BUFFALO Cigarettes. 

“I produce my own cigarettes, and I haul my own fuel,” said Seneca, who also acts as motor fuel wholesaler and transporter with his own fleet of trucks. “I’m totally self-sufficient.” 

For the past 10-plus years, Seneca has produced BUFFALO Cigarettes at his tobacco plant, Six Nations Manufacturing — self-capitalized with the income created through his retail business. 

Seneca currently employs more than 100 people across his enterprises. 

In 2011, he started the JC Seneca Foundation, a nonprofit committed to advancing healthy living in body, mind and spirit for the people of the Seneca Nation and surrounding communities. 

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