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GRAPELAND, Texas — Brookshire Brothers President and CEO John Alston describes the company’s Brookshire Brothers Express store in Grapeland as a “blend of two formats” — grocery store and convenience store, with key features of each to best serve local needs.
“The inspiration for this store concept has its roots in the small-store formats that we have operated for the last 20 years,” said Alston, who ascended to president and CEO of the employee-owned retailer in May after a stint as its chief operating officer.
“It’s long been a mission of ours to serve the small communities in our operating area. To this end, we have developed several formats through the years tailored to meet the unique needs of these communities,” he continued. “Our Grapeland store is our latest interpretation of this solution.”
Opened in October 2016 in the East Texas community, the 16,000-square-foot Brookshire Brothers Express store is compact yet chock full of everything local shoppers want most — many of the things you’d find in a much larger grocery store. Lufkin, Texas-based Brookshire Brothers made sure it was delivering exactly what this rural Houston County community, a two-hour drive southeast of Dallas, wanted when carefully planning how to allot the limited space within the store.
“We have a fundamental belief that it’s our mandate to design and select unique item assortments that our customers want,” Alston asserted. “As word circulated in Grapeland that we were going to build a store there, we had numerous requests to include a pharmacy. In fact, a stack of hundreds of letters was personally delivered to me reiterating that request. We listened, included a pharmacy in the design, and it’s off to a great start.”
The full-service pharmacy, the first for an Express store, features a drive-up window as well as an immunization room and a LifeClinic self-service health station.
The market includes a compact produce section featuring fresh-cut fruit and vegetables, case-ready meats cut and wrapped onsite, deli and prepared foods, craft beers, and core grocery items, with many local products showcased in all departments. The total SKU count numbers 5,800.
Mirroring a convenience store, there’s an emphasis on beverages, particularly coffee. Also, the front end features a c-store-type set, with beverages and tobacco products clustered around the checkstands.
“During the week, it’ll lean toward convenience,” Alston explained. “We get a good lunch representation. Evenings, people are looking for easy meal solutions. It varies a lot by day and time.”
Another strength is prepared foods, with a deli offering sandwiches and hot foods such as Brookshire Brothers’ “famous” fried chicken, along with daily lunch specials, as well as a full breakfast served daily until 10:30 a.m.
“We do a lot of fresh prepared here,” Alston said. “We make our own salads and sandwiches, with an emphasis on fresh.”
Brookshire Brothers evaluates its formats to monitor how shoppers are responding to the individualized item assortments of each store. So far, the retailer feels its Express stores give it a competitive edge.
“Our category managers monitor overall category and specific item movement to ensure that the right variety has been selected for each particular location,” Alston explained. “We feel that for the niche markets we serve, this format is positioned well as a viable alternative to traditional convenience and limited-variety discount operators.”
As such, the format is an important part of the company’s diverse offerings. “We view our Express format as a complement to our overall growth plan,” Alston said. “As we expand our geographic footprint as a whole, the Express format, and the flexibility it provides, gives us the ability to meet the needs of the evolving Texas and Louisiana market areas.”
Click here to read more from Convenience Store News sister publication Progressive Grocer.