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By D. Gail Fleenor
LUFKIN, Texas -- A new super convenience store format is one of the changes planned by Lufkin, Texas-based supermarket chain following its merger with Polk Oil this summer.
In an exclusive interview with CSNews Online, Jerry Johnson, president/CEO of Brookshire Bros. supermarkets, confirmed that the recently merged company will unveil a new super c-store model that includes fresh produce, meat, a pharmacy and the clinic services of a medical professional.
"We asked ourselves how we could get into the c-store model as quickly as possible without re-inventing it from the ground up," Johnson told CSNews yesterday when speaking of the 70-store supermarket chain's recent merger with Polk Oil Co. "We have a new c-store design on the drawing board now."
The recently completed merger -- originally reported by CSNews Online on July 19 -- is big news in the food and convenience industries for more than one reason. Responding to a changing customer base in East Texas, which is now more retirement-oriented, Brookshire Bros. developed a new c-store footprint to reach areas that cannot support a large supermarket. "We need to be able to serve the convenience, pharmacy and fuel needs of these groups," Johnson said.
The new super c-store model, designed by Mike Lawshe of Fort Worth's Paragon Designs, will be 8,700 square feet in size. Both pharmacy and medical services will be available during store hours -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The services will be staffed during regular hours and on call during off hours.
No name change is planned for the existing 29 Polk Pick It Up stores branded with either ExxonMobil or Chevron/Texaco fuel. Carl Ray Polk Jr., president of Polk Oil, also based in Lufkin, will continue to manage those sites plus 71 Brookshire Bros. Conoco Phillips stations. Polk Oil had been steadily growing prior to the merger, doubling its size from 16 to 29 locations in March 2006. Although approached by other companies, Polk decided to merge with Brookshire Bros. "It's unique that two companies share a common vision," Polk said.
Synergy is the word for this merger, according to Johnson. The combined company will have many more options when supply is short at the rack with the additional big oil brands. "We will be able to negotiate with major suppliers and pass on savings to our customers," he said. Brookshire Bros. will also have access to transport trucks with the goal of self-distribution in the future. The Pick It Up stores will be able to increase tobacco margins through contracts that Brookshire Bros. has with suppliers for its Tobacco Barn and B & B Express outlets.
The new store footprint will be the c-store model the company uses going forward, Johnson said. A "very old" Polk location with high traffic volume, which Polk termed "a great piece of dirt" will be razed and rebuilt using the new footprint. "We hope to have it up and running by early April," he said. Three other existing Pick It Up stores will be remodeled and configured to the new format. "Everybody is time-starved," he said. "Brookshire Bros. has an incredible amount of insight, in their plan to catch shoppers in smaller stores."
What will the future hold for the newly merged company and its super c-store model? New c-store units will be added under the Pick It Up banner. The number of Tobacco Barn and B & B Express units at Brookshire Bros. supermarket sites will also grow but keep their names. "We're gonna grow," Johnson said.