As all convenience store chains look for innovative ways to drive sales as tobacco and gas margins decline, they might take note from an unlikely teacher—a small town store in Grandy, Minn., whose unique offerings are going to new lengths to meet consumer demands.
Though only 1,100 square feet, “The Shack on 65” packs the impact of a store twice its size. The unit features a drive-up window, fresh foodservice and UPS service. This summer it will add hand-scooped ice cream from the local dairy and a frozen beverage program. What’s more, customers can call ahead and have their food order waiting for them when they arrive at the drive up window.
“I also operate a daycare business, so I know first hand how hard it is for parents as they struggle to get children in and out of car seats, especially in winter time,” said Leah Torgeson, who opened the store last Labor Day weekend. “It is also convenient for older folks who might slip and fall on the ice and snow, so this way they can just drive in and back out.”
The store strategically sits on a main road that connects to a resort town and attracts customers who stop in for the good prices on eggs and other dairy products. The store also teamed with Schwan’s, a local food distributor, which delivers fresh foods and ice cream every other week.
When the store first opened, the drive-up window took some customers by surprise, and on a few occasions, customers parked their cars and then walked over to the window and knocked. But customers are finally getting the hang of the new feature, which has seen everything from a horse and carriage to a snowmobile come driving through. This summer, the window is about to get a whole lot busier.
A Little League ballpark reopened behind the c-store and the store has agreed to act as its concession stand this summer. Torgeson expects the ballpark to triple sales at the store, which will stay open until 9 p.m. during games, instead of closing at 6 p.m. The store will have runners who will take orders at the game and bring the food back to the patrons.
To accommodate the increased business, Torgeson hopes to complete an addition to accommodate a larger fresh food program, including an array of hot soups for winter.
Taking the Bait
With so many resort customers on fishing trips, Torgeson has decided to start offering live bait and become a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) registered licensing location for fishing and hunting.
Determined to become a one-stop shop, the store also offers drop-off service for UPS, helpful to a lot of customers who work from home and don’t want to drive 20 miles to the nearest post office. Lastly, the store offers a computer with online access to the Sears and Roebuck Wish Book Catalog, allowing customers to place orders, a service popular with customers during the holiday season.
Torgeson said she will continue to pay attention to customer requests and see what new items they can offer to drive traffic and sales at the location. So far, she’s off to a strong start.