By Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.
Express Mart is living up to its name, rapidly increasing its store count and expanding the size of its store footprint to outpace the competition.
In just the first two months of 2012, Home Service Oil debuted two new Express Mart convenience stores in Missouri bringing the chain’s total number of units it operates to 10 stores in and around Jefferson County, Mo., just south of St. Louis.
Headquartered in Barnhart, Mo., Home Service Oil, in addition to operating Express Mart convenience stores, distributes heating oil, gasoline, racing gas, aviation and jet fuel and bulk oil. The company also owns five Express Wash car washes, which are located on its c-store properties. The car washes are drive-through, self-serve bay rollover brush washes. Customers have the option of buying a car wash at the pump while purchasing gas, and the company offers a car wash discount with fuel purchases.
Home Service Oil built the new Express Mart locations from the ground up on existing properties. The new stores—located in Hillsboro and Arnold, Mo.—feature a larger footprint and energy efficient features.
The Hillsboro site measures 6,500 square feet, including an Express Wash car wash, a 5,200 square foot c-store and a back storage room, making it one of the largest c-stores—if not the largest c-store—in Jefferson County.
The store also features 110 linear feet of cooler capacity, including a beer cave. The Arnold location also features a 5,200 square foot c-store, complete with additional cooler space to accommodate a beer cave. Both locations employ about 14 employees.
“As long as these stores continue to be successful this new larger size will be the footprint of the future for us,” said Cory Schuh, business development manager for Home Service Oil Co.
Before the Hillsboro and Arnold locations were built, the chain’s largest store measured 4,200 feet. The 1,000 square-foot upgrade helps the stores better compete with a larger array of products.
The graphics used in the new stores were crafted in conjunction with the opening of an Express Mart in 2005 and have since been added to several existing locations. They will also be used in new stores going forward, giving the chain a uniform look.
Developing Existing Properties
Home Service Oil has owned the property that houses the Hillsboro store since 1997. “It’s a 28-acre parcel of property that we always had the idea of developing with commercial development,” said David Mangelsdorf, president of Home Service Oil.
The company offered a third party lease to Dollar General to move in next door and help attract customers as a second retailer on the property. While some might see a dollar store as increased competition for Express Mart, having the discount store as a neighbor is a welcome traffic driver.
“We actually have another Express Mart location with a Dollar General next to it, so this is our second location with a Dollar General on the same property, and we think they are a good way for us to draw additional traffic,” Mangelsdorf noted. “The other Dollar General went in after that Express Mart was up and running and actually seemed to enhance our inside sales more than detract from them. They certainly sell some of the same things we do, especially now that they sell alcohol as well, but the traffic they generate outpaces the competitive factor.”
Express Mart also partnered with the local community for improvement financing. “It took a while and it was a learning experience to put together a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) and a CID (Commercial Improvement District), but by having those mechanisms in place to fund the infrastructure, that gave us the financing to secure the actual improvements,” Mangelsdorf said.
The company broke ground on the Hillsboro store in October and opened the location for business during the last week of January, with its Arnold store opening close behind at the end of February.
Focus on Fuels
In the forecourt, the Arnold Express Mart has 12 fueling locations and the Hillsboro store offers more than 20 fueling locations. In addition to the standard gasoline grades, both stores offer E85 flex fuel, diesel and kerosene. The sites are both branded Phillips 66.
Over the years, in addition to offering Phillips 66 fuel, Home Service Oil has moved through a number of secondary gas brands from CITGO to Sinclair to BP.
“We’re in the process of converting to entirely Philips 66 at all our locations. Our primary brand has been Phillips since 1960. We always thought a second brand would give us leverage, but we think that concept is behind us,” Mangelsdorf said. “We think we can have more influence by consolidating to one supplier. Philips 66 has been our base and it’s where our loyalty and our base is the strongest, and we think it’s the best brand available.”
The two locations have identical layouts and feature the same product mix. Like many of the Express Mart locations, the new sites both feature Hunt Brothers Pizza programs, which are run by c-store employees. The stores also offer pre-made sandwiches through their grocery vendor.
“We don’t as a company have the ability to run a prepared foodservice program onsite by ourselves, and I don’t want to offer anything customers can’t put in one hand and drive with the other,” Mangelsdorf said.
Both new stores are high on energy efficiency, saving the company dollars by reducing unnecessary lighting and cooling costs. The locations are equipped with skylights for maximizing natural light and individually-controlled fluorescent lighting that automatically adjusts the intensity of the light as needed, depending on the level of ambient light available from the skylights. The company chose the high efficiency fluorescent lighting over LEDs for their lighting quality.
Lighting in the bathrooms, backrooms and coolers are all triggered by motion detectors to further save energy when the areas are not in use.
Four giant eight-foot ceiling fans in each store aid in their efficient heating and cooling and reduce the need for air conditioning and heating. The large fans also prove an interesting draw for customers, especially children. “They get a kick out of it when they see it. We think the bottom line is our energy usage will be lower as a result,” Mangelsdorf said.
To further show its commitment to sustainability, Home Service Oil added large recycling bins at the Hillsboro site, allowing the community to recycle all their aluminum cans, paper, etc.
Express Mart Evolves
Home Service Oil has been in business since 1930 when it was founded by a group of four businessmen. The company began as a heating oil and kerosene home delivery business, and later diversified into propane, racing gas, aviation and jet fuel, automotive parts distribution, bulk oil and convenience stores.
“When my father, Elmer Mangelsdorf, returned from WWII, he worked at a gas station here in Barnhart, Mo., where he became a partner. Then the owner of Home Service Oil asked him to become a partner in Home Service Oil in 1953. He bought out his partner in 1957. When my father passed away in 1995, that’s when I took over the presidency,” said David Mangelsdorf, president of Home Service Oil.
The company’s first foray into retail can be traced back to 1957 when it operated a service station with six gas islands and a kiosk building that featured soda dispensers and cigarette machines. While Home Service Oil didn’t build its first Express Mart c-store until 1986, it began operating stores in the 1970s. “The stores were retrofitted gas stations, and we converted them by adding some coolers, etc. Then we built some locations and leased them to dealers,” Mangelsdorf said. “In the 1980s we began owning and operating our own c-store locations and we’ve never looked back.”