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ALBION, Mich. -- Countless convenience stores plan and execute redesigns and renovations each year. From small to large, those focused on interior design vs. making the store greener, Convenience Store News' own annual Store Design Contest shows there's no lack of innovation and creativity in the c-store industry.
What about when, instead of a redesign, the task is to create a brand-new prototype? As Jackson, Mich.-based Kelly Fuels found out when planning its new Kelly Express Mart prototype store, there are plenty of ideas -- and plenty of challenges, too.
"Our biggest challenges were site restrictions due to property size and dimensions," Kelly Fuels President Rich Tallman told CSNews Online. "We had a real good idea of what we wanted in a new site, but needed to keep an open mind regarding the actual planning because realistically, you need to be flexible to make these projects work."
Kelly Fuels had four goals for the new store: to add more room and increased point-of-sale positions to improve the checkout area; improve restroom facilities; ensure employee and customer safety; and introduce new store branding and a new logo.
To that end, the retailer began talks with Madison Heights, Mich., design firm, d|fab, six months before store construction began.
"The goal was to create a branded retail environment that was friendly, exciting and a respite for travelers along the busy I-94 corridor between Detroit and Chicago," said Tony Camiletti, executive vice president of d|fab. "We also wanted to create an atmosphere that supported a clear, strong merchandise presentation and product offering."
Together, they settled on a train theme to reflect the tie-in with "Express" and the Kelly management team's affinity for retro trains. The design of the new logo was a natural extension of that idea, according to Camiletti.
"We wanted the exterior to have a marketplace look with a separate identity for our QSR (Subway), but still harmonious in appearance," Tallman noted.
The store also "desperately needed" space, and maximized the amount available by installing multiple power outlets throughout the store for refrigerated merchandising, and utilizing numerous gondolas and racks on wheels for maximum flexibility. An interior partition featuring a translucent version of the logo's train illustration divides the Kelly store from neighboring tenant Subway, and interior stencils continue the brand's theme.
"We wanted merchandising versatility, along with a bright and fun visual experience," Tallman explained. "We wanted to be unique and original inside our store and that is exactly what Tony Camilletti and his team at d|fab helped us accomplish."
Once the store design was completed, general contractor R.W. Mercer Co. completed construction in 100 days. The new prototype store was built very close to the old store it replaced, allowing Kelly to reduce the downtime to less than a month.
In the end, management, designers and customers all gave Kelly Express Mart a big thumbs-up.
"The store truly evokes a "Wow!" response from the moment you enter and generates an energetic feeling while you're experiencing the environment," Camiletti said.
"The look of amazement from our long-time customers each visit is priceless," added Tallman. With a successful prototype behind them, the team at Kelly Fuels plans to move forward with its new brand, and replicate the design at more stores. Three similar renovations are planned for Michigan this year.