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    The Best in Store Design

    This year?s winning store concepts set the bar on what convenience means

    By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News

    Everyone these days seems to want a piece of the ?convenience? pie. Big-box retailers are scaling down to small boxes that consumers can navigate more quickly and easily. Drugstores are adding fresh food and beverages to their traditional health and wellness mix. And grocery stores are increasingly offering online ordering with home delivery or at-store pickup.

    With competition coming from all angles, it?s more important than ever that convenience stores raise the bar on what ?convenience? is and how it?s delivered to today?s harried shoppers. This means innovating in both store design and product offering on a continuous basis.

    The winners of this year?s Convenience Store News Store Design Contest do just that. From Champlain Oil?s Jiffy Mart store strategically built to serve customers in both New Hampshire and Vermont, to PDQ Food Stores? newest location where the design philosophy was to ?keep it simple? with an intuitive and fluid floor plan, these award-winning designs are original and modern.

    The CSNews design awards, now in their ninth year, honor convenience retailers that have created the most exciting, innovative and shopper-friendly looks for their stores. Entries are judged on innovation, creativity and the positive impact of the overall design on the business.

    Here, we highlight the winners and honorable mentions for Best Original Design (a new build), Best Interior Design (also a new build), Best Sky?s the Limit Remodel (more than $250,000), Best Mid-Budget Remodel ($100,000 to $250,000) and Best Low-Cost Remodel (less than $100,000). The winners and honorable mentions in specialty categories, such as Best Beer Cave, Best Cold Vault, Best Growler Station and Best Graphics, are also featured.

    BEST ORIGINAL DESIGN

    Winner: Kangaroo Express, Fayetteville, N.C.

    The Pantry Inc. considered two things when building its new store in Fayetteville: its support of the military, and location. The result was the first military-themed Kangaroo Express.

    The convenience store at 5642 Bragg Blvd. is located across from Fort Bragg. The outlet includes all the offerings Kangaroo Express has become known for: Bean Street Coffee, fresh sandwiches, an assortment of bakery options, hot dog grills and ?Hot From the Oven? selections. It also includes a Subway restaurant with a drive-thru and seating for about 30 customers.

    The Cary, N.C.-based retailer wove tributes to the U.S. military into the store. Six murals depict brave military men and women serving our country. The aptly named ?Wash Rack? offers car wash services with automatic wash, foam, rinse and wax options. Customers can then grab a chilled beverage from the ?Cold Canteen? walk-in. The mural selection and military-themed names were chosen through local input.

    A Wall of Honor in the store recognizes local community members that are making a difference in the Fayetteville area and around the world. It also displays recognition from local military service organizations, such as the USO-NC and Fisher House Foundation, for Kangaroo Express? support through its annual Salute Our Troops campaign and throughout the year.

    ?Positioned across the street from a major entrance onto U.S. Army military installation Fort Bragg, Kangaroo Express saw an opportunity for its store [that was] scheduled to be rebuilt to not only serve the military community, but to embrace and show the company?s appreciation for our troops and their families,? according to the retailer.

    Since its opening, the store has seen significant increases in traffic. Of those that participated in a customer intercept survey, military personnel unanimously liked the military concept. Additionally, more than 70 percent of citizens also liked the military concept.

    BEST ORIGINAL DESIGN

    Honorable Mention: Jiffy Mart, Walpole, N.H.

    Noticing a lack of convenience stores and fast food choices near the New Hampshire-Vermont border, Champlain Oil decided to fill the gap with a 5,200-square-foot Jiffy Mart store on the New Hampshire side of the state line.

    The Walpole c-store features a Subway and Dunkin? Donuts with a drive-thru window. The forecourt includes a gas canopy with four dispensers and a diesel canopy with two dispensers.

    According to Champlain Oil, the two-state border location fills a void for New Hampshire customers and draws customers from Vermont attracted to the lower gas tax and the lack of sales tax in its neighboring state. The resulting sales have been strong and this store has some of the top sales numbers in the company?s 31-store chain.

    BEST INTERIOR DESIGN

    Winner: PDQ Food Store, Madison, Wis.

    Designer: Hussmann

    With a modest budget in hand, PDQ Food Stores approached Hussmann to help it build a new convenience store in Madison to add to its Midwest portfolio.

    The design philosophy was to ?keep it simple? with a floor plan that is intuitive and fluid. Utilizing the interior wall structures and creating a complementary color palette, the retail and service areas were defined. The store is open enough for the customer to visualize the entire merchandising area from just about anywhere in the store.

    The majority of focus has been placed on the made-to-order food program, keeping with the employee-owned company?s heavy focus on fresh store-made bakery items and prepared foods. PDQ offers a large variety of prepared foods, some of which are showcased in its Hussmann island merchandiser. The new store also highlights its World Cup coffee offering.

    Based in Middleton, Wis., PDQ Food Stores operates 30-plus convenience stores in Wisconsin and one location in Tahoma, Calif.

    BEST INTERIOR DESIGN

    Honorable Mention: Jiffy Trip, Newkirk, Okla.

    Designer: Paragon Solutions

    In the small town of Newkirk, Jiffy Trip decided to do something special for its customers by introducing a fresh, modern image combined with the latest convenience store programs.

    The 3,691-square-foot store, which opened in October 2013, boasts a beer cave, Subway restaurant, and a drive-thru window where customers can get anything they want.

    The objective was to provide the town with a modern convenience alternative ? but it did not come without challenges. According to design firm Paragon Solutions, the budget was much less per square foot than previous stores because Newkirk is a smaller market.

    BEST SKY?S THE LIMIT REMODEL

    Winner: Slovacek?s, West, Texas

    Designer: Paragon Solutions

    Back in the 1880s, the city of West was starting to grow thanks to the Katy Railroad. This growth brought Czech immigrants to the area hoping to purchase farmland and start a new life in the New World. Looking to build on this history, Slovacek?s wanted to capture the Czech culture in a progressive market offering a wide variety of foodservice options and travel amenities.

    Showcased in this 12,000-square-foot store are Czech delicacies such as kolaches and sausage rolls; Slovacek?s fresh-baked goods; homemade meats and cheeses; gourmet sandwiches; and Laura Belle?s frozen yogurt. The location also features a beer cave, seating area, salad bar and an outdoor dog park.

    The existing space was the former home of a steakhouse, but with the help of Paragon Solutions, Slovacek?s opened its new store in October 2013. The unique architecture and quirky personality draws customers, and the offerings keep them coming back for more.

    BEST SKY?S THE LIMIT REMODEL

    Honorable Mention: RaceTrac, Hampton, Ga.

    RaceTrac Petroleum Inc.?s Sunnyside store in Hampton was built in 2008 as part of the company?s RT5K prototype stores. Given the site?s strong numbers, RaceTrac was hard-pressed when deciding to renovate it as a part of its multiyear renovation effort to upgrade existing stores, but delivering a consistent brand experience has become a pillar of RaceTrac?s commitment to its guests.

    The project encompassed a complete renovation of the store?s interior, as well as significant modifications to its exterior. The 5,000-square-foot store now features RaceTrac?s signature Swirl World frozen yogurt and new Speedy Avocado made-to-order concept.

    Speedy Avocado is especially highlighted in the new store design by being placed front and center, allowing the associates to be the heroes of the store. RaceTrac also incorporated numerous branding elements from its new RT6K prototype into the renovation.

    ?The RT6K prototype is a phenomenal success for RaceTrac and we want to bring our entire fleet of stores up to this standard in order to deliver a consistent experience for our guests,? the Atlanta-based retailer explained.

    BEST MID-BUDGET REMODEL

    Winner: Meiners Market, Desoto, Kan.

    When a competitor moved in a block away from its first store in Desoto, Meiners Market decided to up its game.

    Most important in the remodel was reinforcing the fact that the store ? and the company ? was owned and operated by a local family. And just as important was finishing the remodel before Casey?s General Stores Inc. opened its nearby convenience store.

    Customer expectations had evolved since the original store was built in 1996. Shoppers today want to stop at a store that feels safe and comfortable, and they shop for products that revive and refresh them before and after a long day at work or a commute, or for a special treat/reward.

    ?We wanted to meet the needs of the modern customer while not losing touch with the local community. We also wanted to ?warm? up our store?s features to reflect the friendly and welcoming personalities of our store team,? the retailer noted.

    Meiners decided to replace what it called the white ?hospital? walls of the store and revitalize it with warm colors. Modern tile was used to highlight certain areas of the store and stone facade added warmth to the exterior and the cashier stand. The ceiling height was raised to provide a feeling of ample space, plus the restrooms were remodeled with new fixtures added.

    Meiners also wanted to highlight the family part of its business and display its local history in the area. To this end, vintage pictures were transposed into large store signage.

    In addition, the retailer expanded the store?s foodservice offer, adding YoYo frozen yogurt, bulk candy, and a new fountain area with more flavors and options. Meiners also revamped the coffee counter and installed a flatscreen television to showcase its coffee offerings.

    BEST MID-BUDGET REMODEL

    Honorable Mention: American Center, Madison, Wis.

    Designer: Hussmann

    Standing at the center of many professional buildings and medical centers, American Center in Madison is aptly named.

    The store?s operator, Loeder Oil, decided it was time to refresh the outlet, which is positioned just off the highway leading to the state capital. The retailer joined with a longstanding partner and customer Hussmann to do just that.

    Hussmann created a 3-D model of the store so that Loeder Oil could gain a clear understanding of how the store interior would transform. The new design places visual emphasis on the new beer cave and coffee islands so that neither is lost in the layout. Adjacent product and food offerings surround focal areas. In addition, the blue truss work ties the convenience store to the Subway restaurant that shares the space.

    The remodel also draws attention to American Center?s ties to the community, with photo displays of local landmarks and flatscreen TVs showing college football games.

    BEST LOW-COST REMODEL

    Winner: BP to go, Chicago

    This spring, BP launched ?to go,? a new retail image for its market east of the Rockies. The approach allows BP-branded marketers the flexibility to upgrade their convenience stores with an attractive new look ? inside and out.

    The retail image package includes a variety of elements to suit various c-store layouts, building exteriors and price signs. The elements are designed to blend seamlessly with existing BP brand designs and are flexible enough to accommodate the unique needs of small- and large-format sites.

    The new ?to go? image needed to be retrofittable to existing architecture, fixtures and interior spaces, as well as new-to-industry and competitive conversions, the company explained. BP?s foremost challenge was providing a quality image that could be affordable to a broad spectrum of jobber/dealer operators with varied resources.

    The result is a fresh new look for BP convenience stores that will provide an enhanced customer experience aligned with BP?s premium fuel offer. The oil giant piloted the program in 2013 and the response from participating BP-branded marketers thus far has been positive.

    BEST COLD VAULT

    Winner: Fuelmart, Perrysburg, Ohio

    Designer: Paragon Solutions

    How do you take a tired old legacy store and turn it into a modern truck stop? For Ports Petroleum and its Fuelmart in Perrysburg, it took vision.

    The new store design features huge restrooms and showers, a large beer cave, a Subway restaurant and a grab-and-go program that would entice any customer.

    Greeting shoppers to the right of the entrance is the store?s expansive cold vault that stakes claim to one whole wall in the 6,890-square-foot store, developed in partnership with Paragon Solutions. The multi-door selection offers all the ?fuel for the day? that a customer needs.

    The objective was to breathe new life into an old site and that objective was met.

    BEST BEER CAVE

    Winner: Fuel Maxx, Spring, Texas

    Designer: Builder Display & Art

    Fuel Maxx?s goal is to provide the community with a warm environment filled with amenities and a friendly staff. Its Store No. 6 in Spring is no different.

    The recent renovation at the 4,300-square-foot store draws in customers with vibrant, colorful wall graphics highlighted with warm LED lighting in an open-ceiling concept.

    Running along the walls are coolers with 3-D directional signs for beverages and snacks. Anchoring the corner of the cooler is a true gem: the Fuel Maxx Beer Vault, which is designed to look like a see-through bank vault. The Beer Vault is a walk-in cooler where customers can choose their favorite beers by the case ? already pre-chilled.

    Beyond the cooler walls is the Fuel Maxx Wine Cellar boasting 20 shelves of fine wines. Other offerings are easily spotted, including a coffee bar, fresh deli counter with breakfast and lunch items, a self-service soda fountain, and a large array of frozen drinks.

    ?Our design goal is to give our patrons the feeling they have entered a store with a solid foundation that wants to be an extension of the community itself,? according to the retailer. ?We want to be part of their daily routine with more than just competitive prices, which is why we have made our interior graphics visually pleasing and even fun to look at. From the animated bubbles coming from the fountain area to the steel walls of the Beer Cave, our goal is to make their daily visit with us a moment to look forward to every day.?

    BEST GROWLER STATION

    Winner: Fast Eddy?s, Meridian, Idaho

    Fast Eddy?s in Meridian was already a busy store, but its operators thought it was time for a change ? and what a change it turned out to be.

    Plans called for replacing the store?s 1,800 square feet of retail floor space with a new design featuring nearly 6,000 square feet. Taking a starring role in the sky?s-the-limit remodel is the new Growler Station, which serves up 24 different beers on tap.

    By increasing the floor space, Fast Eddy?s owners also made room for more roller grills (now four) and additional soda fountains (now three, each with 16 heads and eight flavor shots). Fast Eddy?s enhanced its foodservice offerings as well, with fresh-made sushi delivered daily by a local sushi retailer and two hot cases for ready-to-eat food.

    In addition, the retailer upped the number of pay points from three to five, and expanded its wine selection from slightly less than 100 bottles to more than 300 after the remodel.

    The main challenge was simply getting everything to fit into the store. ?Not being a ground-up build, we had to make adjustments and compromises to make everything work,? said owner Steve Eddy. ?The results have been great with the Growler Station drawing in a lot of new customers, and the increased floor space allows us to not feel claustrophobic during the busy times.?

    Sales and customer traffic have increased compared to the previous year?s figures.

    BEST GRAPHICS

    Winner: Murphy USA, El Dorado, Ark.

    Designer: Chute Gerdeman

    Murphy USA was going for that ?wow? experience and it delivered. Working with Chute Gerdeman to develop its new store prototype, the retailer?s chosen concept focuses on welcoming customers to a fast, reliable, cost-conscious encounter.

    The retailer drives home its mission with sleek, dynamic graphics that convey movement and speed, as well as provide a wayfinding system that highlights various product areas. In addition, calls to action on the soffits are paired with a floor-to-ceiling path to the soda fountain, making it easy for the customer to find what he or she is looking for.

    What first grabs a customer?s attention is the gas canopy ? designed to be open and to clearly highlight price. The storefront conveys fastness with an open entrance devoid of barriers.

    Speedier than typical construction, these new small-format Murphy USA stores use a pre-fabricated, modular structure. Every piece, from the walls to pre-mounted graphics, is delivered in a single package to maximize efficiency. The strategic use of light gives the store dynamism and energy. Fixtures are black so they recede, allowing the product to take center stage.

    Keeping in mind that for the customer, it?s all about time, the design team helped to hone in by reducing clutter for a more organized cash wrap. ?Messages are brief and friendly,? according to Chute Gerdeman.

    BEST GRAPHICS

    Honorable Mention: NOCO Express, Getzville, N.Y.

    In 2013, NOCO Express replaced a small, out-of-date convenience store in Getzville with a new 6,300-square-foot retail outlet. The store now features a Tim Hortons, Subway restaurant and a beverage bar.

    In addition to the quick-service restaurants, this NOCO Express offers fresh food items, such as fruit and sandwiches from its Nickel City Foods program.

    What really grabs the customer?s attention and complements the product offerings, though, are the graphics. NOCO Express did not skimp on colors, images or flatscreen TV monitors to showcase the different areas of the store and promotional specials.

    Since reopening last year, the store?s sales have increased exponentially, making NOCO Express Store No. 27 one of the retailer?s busiest locations.

    By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News
    • About Melissa Kress Melissa Kress joined EnsembleIQ's Convenience Store News and Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner in November 2010. Her primary beats include alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Kress has been a professional journalist since 1995. A graduate of West Virginia University, she began her career in community journalism before moving to business-to-business publishing in 2000, covering commercial real estate.

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