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    Chasing Down Growth

    Cheetah Mart becomes a local favorite one year after opening, and has plans to expand.

    By Mehgan Belanger

    In April 2009, Convenience Store News featured the story behind Cheetah Mart, a convenience store opened and operated by Trent Lee and Jerrod McPherson, two HVAC professionals with little c-store industry experience. The upscale store, located in Fargo, N.D., featured typical convenience store items along with made-to-order foodservice items, a full-service coffee bar, a sit-down eating area and a section featuring a fireplace and leather armchairs, where customers can relax. At the time, Cheetah Mart was one of the first retail stores open in a lifestyle center called Urban Plains.

    A little more than a year later, CSNews checked in with Lee to see what changes occurred at Cheetah Mart since it opened, and what the future holds for the store and its owners.

    Lee and McPherson continue to bounce between their two professions as c-store owners and HVAC professionals, but good planning and a strong management team in place allow the co-owners to successfully manage both businesses, Lee said, noting they meet regularly with the store staff and communicate daily to address any concerns.

    Minor changes to Cheetah Mart's made-to-order foodservice section are currently being discussed. Lee said switches may occur in its hot sandwich offering "just to keep things fresh." The store's sandwiches are one of customers' favorite foodservice items, along with its soup offering. Other fresh food options include a salad bar, a Godfather's Pizza franchise, a roller grill and a grab-and-go deli selection using ciabatta and multi-grain breads, wraps and more.

    Customers can choose to eat inside at a 40-seat dining area, outside the store on the patio area or take their food to-go.

    Cheetah Mart also features a full-service coffee and pastry bar called Daily Grind, as well as a hand-dipped ice cream offering.

    Since the 5,700-square-foot store opened in January 2009, it has garnered the attention of local residents. Lee said traffic increases each week, and the store was recently voted one of Fargo's three favorite convenience stores. "We're really thrilled about [it]," Lee said of the honor. "That type of customer excitement never gets old."

    Helping the store grow its customer base and create loyal shoppers is a loyalty card program and a credit card offer through its fuel brand, Clark. Another strategy to retain shoppers is a concerted effort by store staff to get to know customers.

    And the lifestyle center where Cheetah Mart is located, Urban Plains, is seeing growth and development of its own. Dubbed by Lee as a "city within a city," the center is home to other retailers including Verizon, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Starion Bank and Mexican Village. New buildings are "starting to pop up all over around us," including a new bank, medical office and an office mall with several new companies currently under construction, he said. Moreover, there are several large apartment buildings slated to begin construction this spring.

    And growth will continue for Cheetah Mart as well. Lee and McPherson are in discussions with several other stores about franchising the Cheetah Mart brand. Also, the pair is speaking with investors to help fuel additional store growth planned for the next several years.

    By Mehgan Belanger
    • About Mehgan Belanger

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