Hinsdale’s Friendly Faces

Whether they’re spending $2 or $250,000, customers descending on the 200 block of East Ogden Ave. in Hinsdale, Ill., are likely to require some fundamental features in the products they purchase.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a turkey on rye from Hinsdale Shell Food Mart at 210 East Ogden Ave. or a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder from Lamborghini Chicago at 209 East Ogden Ave. Hinsdale consumers want a superior product, made-to-order, and they want it fast from a friendly face.

John Archer and Robin Gabriel are two of those friendly faces, having purchased Hinsdale Shell Food Mart six months ago after spending 25 years each managing the store. Their combined half-century of experience at Hinsdale Shell, paired with their newfound ownership of the 4,000-squarefoot store, is ushering in some notable changes.

“It’s an upscale community,” said Archer, rattling off a list of the swanky cars sold within walking distance of the store: Ferrari, Maserati, Rolls Royce, Lamborghini.

“This is not your typical store,” Archer said. “The typical gas station with a c-store has (fewer) non-gas customers. We have 45% non-gas customers.”

The reliable daily salvo of in-store consumers seems to fit the traditional c-store customer’s profile with males outnumbering females two-to-one. Employees are longtenured and dedicated, with some holding employment for a decade or more.

“Our customers, when they come in every day they see the same faces,” Archer said. “It’s not like other convenience stores where they see a new face every other day. A lot of times when they come in, we’re already making the food for them.”
To be sure, Hinsdale Shell’s foodservice program is a crucial segment of the c-store’s sales, particularly the lunch daypart, Archer said. The program has an unbranded concept operating under the banner “Hinsdeli,” an obvious play on the city’s name.

Last year, Hinsdeli’s foodservice accounted for 20% of Hinsdale Shell’s in-store sales, fully $50,000 of the $220,000 in monthly sales, Archer said.

“That doesn’t include pop, chips and everything to go with it,” Archer said.

The lunch menu boasts a four-page magnum opus on all things made-to-order from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.: hot and cold subs and sandwiches and more.

“We do a lot of things from scratch. It’s cheaper and it tastes better,” Archer said. “The people perceive us as fresh. We slice all our own meat, and everything is made fresh on location.”

Attracting a Crowd

The local business crowd adds tremendous volume to Hinsdeli’s lunch sales, Archer said, estimating an average of 325 sandwiches were sold for lunch each day in 2007. The shift to the dinner daypart will add a different dynamic as Hindale Shell will have to draw local residents from homes rather than employees from offices.

“We’re really looking to get a dinner business going,” Archer said. “Even if it’s 25% of what we do at lunch, it’s 25% more than what we’re doing now. The biggest hurdle will be getting neighbors in the neighborhood to overcome the stigma of going to a gas station for dinner.

”Minor in-store alterations to usher in the new ownership at Hinsdale Shell, Gabriel said, will include an expansion of gondolas and shelf space, adding earth-toned motifs in-store, changing the seating area and installing a fullservice coffee bar at the deli. In the coming weeks, the dinner menu will soon showcase more family-size dinners and promotions for whole pizzas and meals.

Foodservice aside, the duo credited its new grocery partner, Eby-Brown, for coming up with a winning planogram for the rest of the store.

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