The New York City marketer is thriving with 44 convenience stores, an upscale foodservice offering and a new organic coffee program.
By John Lofstock, Editor.
The Brooklyn Nets? Fugetaboutit. New York City’s largest borough is celebrating the growth of a convenience store chain it can call its very own. That’s because Bolla Management Corp. hasn’t just come of age over the past two years, it is setting standards in retail design and foodservice that are attracting the attention of customers and competitors alike.
“We take our relationship with our customers very seriously,” said Harry Singh, president and CEO of family-owned Bolla Management Corp., which oversees the company’s retail, jobber, construction and consulting businesses. “We set out to develop and refine an offer that includes the finest foods in the best stores that gives our customers a reason to keep coming back. We’ve made a lot of progress, but we have a lot more work to do.”
Singh’s retail vision is unfolding every day as the company adds new items to its growing gourmet foodservice program, welcomes dealer stores into its fuel distribution network and perfects its new organic, Fair Trade coffee program.
“Our mission is to become the most successful and most respected chain of gas stations and convenience stores in the region. We will strive to meet this objective while adhering to the highest standards of business conduct,” Singh said. “Bolla pledges to provide our customers with the unexpected luxury and elegance not normally found in the convenience store marketplace. Our spacious, elegantly decorated locations add value to our products and services.”
As part of the Bolla pledge, the company aims to provide its customers with the most competitive prices, the most courteous service and the cleanest and well-maintained locations. As such, the company has adopted the tagline, “taking convenience to a whole new level” as it focuses on its relationship with customers.
Bite of the Big Apple
Operating in a market like New York City presents a unique set of operating challenges, Singh said. For starters, the company wanted a retail design that helps to change customers’ perceptions of a traditional c-store. To do this, Bolla Markets are equipped with elegant fixtures and shelving displays, warm lighting that is bright and inviting and an upscale product offering.
“To make your mark you are either growing the business, or waiting for the industry to pass you by,” Singh said. “Our strategy is relatively simple. We are looking for top quality stores that will help us expand in our markets of operation and present opportunities in new markets that will enhance our scalability.”
As part of the expansion, Bolla has partnerships with leading fuel brands including BP, Exxon, Mobil, Gulf and Sunoco, five very strong brands in the New York market. Additionally, the company, through its jobber business, distributes Exxon and Mobil fuels to 22 dealer-owned sites. The company expects to distribute about 200 million gallons in the upcoming year.
Delighting the customer with a warm, friendly retail environment helps perpetuate Bolla’s value proposition. “There is no magic bullet when it comes to serving our customers,” said Brett Atherton, Bolla’s experienced director of marketing. “We know we have to consistently meet their needs every time they walk through our doors.”
To that end, stores are routinely inspected for cleanliness, employees wear crisp uniforms—complete with name tags. “It’s this consistency and service that we provide 24 hours a day, 365 days a year that keeps customers coming back,” Atherton said.
Throughout the store, Bolla has been keen on developing brand awareness and a proprietary offering, which it has done at key profit centers like the soda fountain and the frozen beverage bar.
Other features that are distinctly Bolla are the multiple destination points inside the store that are identified with eye-appealing graphics, such as the Bakery, Beer, Snacks and Beverage zones. Customers are greeted by a large front counter that sits adjacent to the made-to-order foodservice counter.
While outstanding service and strong locations are the backbone at Bolla Markets, the chain recognized it needed to expand its foodservice offering. An extensive foodservice menu featuring everything from meat loaf and baked chicken, to made-to-order sandwiches and wraps, gives customers a tried and true program New Yorkers can appreciate.
“Foodservice is one area that we are very high on now,” Singh said. “Whether it’s something as simple as a great fresh cup of coffee or a fresh hot dog or something from out upscale gourmet delis, we have a much better handle on how to be a great foodservice operator so we will continue to push the envelope to meet our customers’ needs.”
Building a proprietary program with specially tailored products can differentiate your brand from the herd of foodservice competitors. The extra work can drive strong profits—if it’s done well. But depending on a chain’s size and resources, building a brand from scratch isn’t always a realistic option. The folks at Bolla saw that as a challenge they couldn’t refuse.
The Bolla Market deli model is gaining quite a loyal following in its markets, which is really saying something about the quality of the food. “New York is known to have some of the best food in the world, but here we are growing a dedicated stream of customers to try our food,” Singh said.
Anchoring the food program is Bolla Market’s new coffee initiative, a complete line of organic, fair trade brews marketed under the Bolla brand, was rolled out in December at stores across New York. Dignitaries on hand for the product launch in Brooklyn included Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Borough President, and Evelyn Cruz, community liaison for Rep. Nydia Velázquez.
“I have to admit that this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to experience foodservice at a convenience store, but I’m extremely impressed with the job Harry and his team are doing,” Markowitz told Convenience Store Decisions at the Brooklyn product launch. “They are building a solid retail foundation and creating new jobs in the greatest city in the world. I applaud their efforts and look forward to learning more about their success in the future.”
To show his support for Bolla Markets, Markowitz officially declared Dec. 11, 2012 as Bolla Market Fair Trade Coffee Initiative Celebration Day in Brooklyn.
While Singh enjoys hearing the kind words, his focus is clearly on growing the business. “We have made some great strides, but it’s just the beginning of the journey,” he said. “It’s very exciting when you realize the opportunity that lies in front of us.”
At a Glance: Bolla Management Corp.
Using the tagline, “Taking Convenience to a Whole New Level,” Bolla Management Corp. is earning quite a reputation in the New York City market. Not only is the company on track to distribute between close to 200 million gallons, it is rapidly developing its Bolla Market c-store brand with 44 units throughout New York City and Long Island. The company plans to expand operations by adding company-owned stores and growing its distribution network.
C-Store Brand: Bolla Market
Markets of Operations/Planned Expansion: Long Island and New York City
Fuel Brands: BP, Exxon, Mobil, Gulf, Sunoco
Number of Employees: 450
• Harry Singh, President and CEO
• Jay Singh, Vice President of Operations
• Brett L Atherton, Director of Marketing
• Seif Abdraboh, Director of Operations
Social Media: www.bollaoil.com, www.facebook.com/bollabarket,