welcome to the neighborhood

Canastota, N.Y.-based Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes knows how to make an entrance. Just before it opened its Taft Road location—the 85th store in the chain and the fifth ground-up location with the new store design introduced more than a year ago—store personnel visited about 125 local businesses with “welcome baskets.”

“We got a list of every office and delivered a kind of ‘reverse welcome basket’ with some food items, our menus and an application for our new fleet card, which can only be used at Nice N Easy branded fuel locations,” said Fran Duskiewicz, senior executive vice president of Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes Inc. “The baskets took very little investment and it made great use of our employees’ time. While they were getting set to open the store, it gave them a great way to go around and introduce themselves to the local businesses.”

The Taft Road site was chosen because it would capitalize on two of Nice N Easy’s strongest offers—its private branded gas and its proprietary Easy Street Eatery foodservice program. Even though the location isn’t heavily populated, it’s surrounded by businesses, many of which have fleet vehicles. The company opened with special foodservice pricing and a local mailer with coupons for in-store items.

Nice N Easy knew it hit a homerun with the store after just a week of it being open. After its first full week, the Taft Road store finished in the top quartile of the company’s corporate stores in sales and exceeded five figures in foodservice sales. It expects foodservice alone to exceed $1 million annually.

New Additions
The Taft Road location features a number of firsts for Nice N Easy. To feed all its hungry new neighbors, the store offers the largest Easy Street Eatery—1,200 sq. ft. of a 4,500 sq. ft. store—with ample seating. It’s also the first time Nice N Easy has integrated Verifone Topaz touchscreen point-of-sale terminals. After seeing the incredible foodservice potential of the store, the company has devoted one of the terminals to foodservice customers, creating a separate checkout option at the main counter.

“Our employees like talking to customers while they’re in the made-to-order line and they’re great at getting people in and out,” Duskiewicz said. “But the food area can become very busy with catering and take-out orders. Having a dedicated food POS gives customers a chance to pay and keep people moving. We don’t want to have our customers wait in too many long lines when they have limited lunch hours. And the touchscreens help us to capture data for accurate item-level inventories.”

What’s more, the potential diesel fuel volume forced the chain to offer separate fueling entrances, which in turn created a need for separate store entrances. Nice N Easy isn’t a huge fan of independent entrances, but the strength of the store’s interior design has almost made believers of them.

“The lot itself is long and narrow, which forced us to be creative with the design,” Duskiewicz said. “We’re not crazy about separate entrances, but we give our customers a reason to traverse the store. Across from one door is the Easy Street Eatery, which is obviously a draw. Across from the diesel side is a big, open-faced cooler with single-serve container drinks. It’s easy for everyone to find what they want and it keeps the traffic moving.”

Almost all of Nice N Easy’s corporate stores have been converted to the new graphics, and the company has been working with franchisees to implement them. But it’s Nice N Easy’s hope to have its exterior look spread to more locations.

“We’re always looking to raze and rebuild old stores with potential,” Duskiewicz said. “We’re working with our contractor on how some older stores can have exterior freshenings that ape the new stores without expensive raze and rebuilds.

“But this year, in particular, we’ve really focused on new ground-up store constructions,” he added. “When you go into stores that we’re building now, it’s a big deal. We’re not building the 2,800 sq. ft. stores we used to build. These are major constructions on multi-acres of property. [Company President] John MacDougall designed this store and we think it’s his best work to date.”

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