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    BONUS CONTENT: Ones to Watch

    These smaller convenience store chains are big on innovation.

    By Don Longo, Convenience Store News

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — While they may not have made the Convenience Store News Top 100 this year, three convenience store chains — Ricker’s, Parker’s and NOCO Express — bear watching over the next couple of years as each one is on the move with innovative new growth and concept development.

    Ricker Oil Co., Anderson, Ind.
    51 Ricker’s stores; all company-owned and -operated

    What’s New?

    • President and CEO Quinn Ricker has taken pride in offering higher wages vs. c-store competitors. The Indiana-based regional chain surprised the c-store industry last month, announcing it will raise its entry wage to $9 per hour on July 1, with the hourly pay rising to $10 after successful completion of one year of employment. “We are not doing this because of mandatory government regulations. We are doing this because we view our team members as a family and it is the right thing to do,” the chief executive said.
    • Earlier this year, the retailer opened a new flagship store in Carmel, Ind., that offers customers amenities not so common in most c-stores. The next-generation Ricker’s store features high-quality food and drink offerings, a sleek design boasting a large center atrium, a chandelier, and subway and glass mosaic tile. Amenities include premium equipment for lattes, cappuccinos and espressos, as well as smoothies and shakes; doorless, touch-free bathrooms; in-store seating; touchscreen ordering; and Ricker’s new proprietary French recipe cookie baked fresh daily.
    • Ricker’s isn’t showing signs of slowing down. In what will be its fastest year of organic growth, the retailer will have five new stores opened in 2015 modeled after the new flagship concept.

    The Parker Cos., Savannah, Ga.
    38 Parker’s stores; all company-owned and -operated

    What’s New?

    • Parker’s continues to raise the bar by offering restaurant-quality cuisine for customers on the go, Parker’s President and CEO Greg Parker said recently when the company was recognized by consumers with a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence.
    • Operating throughout Georgia and South Carolina, Parker’s typical stores are roughly 3,200 square feet, open 24/7 and feature 10 fueling positions, including diesel. New stores also include fresh-brewed sweet tea and lemonade, as well as the company's signature Chewy Ice, 24 soda fountain heads and gourmet coffee.
    • In March, The Parker Cos. moved out of its 6,000-square-foot headquarters above its first c-store in Savannah and into a historic 15,000-square-foot Greek revival mansion. With space to expand the current corporate staff of 26 to as many as 38, the company plans to add 11 convenience stores this year. "We are a $500-million company today," said Parker. "In five years, we want to be a $1-billion company."

    NOCO Energy Corp., Tonawanda, N.Y.
    38 NOCO Express stores; 37 are company-owned and -operated

    What’s New?

    • Based in western New York State, NOCO Energy Corp. operates NOCO Express convenience stores throughout the upstate New York region and offers a full line of energy products and services including natural gas, electricity, propane, heating oil, HVAC sales and service, commercial fuels and industrial lubricants.
    • This year, the company opened its first Tim Hortons franchised location at its NOCO Express store in Tonawanda, following an interior remodel that gave the store an updated look and an expanded fresh products selection. The remodel boasts a brighter, more open layout and new cooler space for fresh food, dairy and juice products, frozen foods and craft beers. In addition, a new checkout area and seating area were added. New wall graphics installed throughout the store provide an overall updated look. 
    • Said Jim DeFilippis, vice president and general manager: "As the convenience store industry and customers' on-the-go needs evolve and change, we continue to update and enhance our offerings for our customers. With the addition of Tim Hortons and the expansion of our Nickel City Foods products, we are providing our Kenmore Avenue store customers with a greater selection of fresh, grab-and-go foods."
    • The 80-year-old company also added a self-serve frozen yogurt shop called U-Swirl to another remodeled store on Grand Island near Niagara Falls.

    Editor's note: This Bonus Content story is an add-on to the Top 100 report published in the July issue of Convenience Store News. A digital edition can be accessed by clicking here.

    By Don Longo, Convenience Store News
    • About Don Longo Don Longo is editorial director of EnsembleIQ's Convenience Store News, Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner and Hispanic Retail 360 media brands. He has covered retailing for more than 30 years as a reporter, editor and publisher. Previously, he spearheaded the editorial efforts at a variety of business publications focused on mass, drug, grocery and specialty store retailing. Convenience Store News won American Business Media’s Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Issue of the Year in 2008 and 2012. Longo has won numerous other editorial awards over his career and is frequently quoted in the national and local news media on the subjects of retailing and consumer trends.

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