Innovation and adventure is nothing new to NACS 2013-14 Chairman Brad Call, whose family has embraced both for more than 80 years. Adventure is a part of his DNA—his title at Maverik is vice president of adventure culture—and is central to a number of company initiatives that he discussed today’s NACS Show general session in Atlanta.
So how do you top generations of innovation that includes opening the first Maverik store in 1928, right around the time that the convenience store industry was born; forming CallAir, an early aircraft manufacturing company; and even inventing the first snowmobile in the Rockies?
“Our adventures at Maverik now come from finding new ways to thrill our customers,” said Call. “Everything that the customer experiences at Maverik has to take them away on a fun adventure—from the products we brand to the fuel they buy.”
For example, Maverik doesn’t have typical store grand openings. Instead, they are called open houses and they scream adventure. There is ‘Grillin’ ’n’ Chillin’ in the parking lot, sampling of free products and activities and high-energy events that Call simply calls “tons of crazy stuff.”
“It is just a lot of fun and thrills the customer,” he said.
It also requires a keen focus to deliver an adventure experience to customers. “In our efforts to thrill customers, we have a very disciplined approach to emotionally connect with them” through segmenting and developing programs and offers specific to different groups’ needs,” said Call.
While Maverik may do things quite differently than many other companies, its story is familiar to multi-generation businesses. When Brad’s grandfather Reuel Call opened the first Maverik store in the fall of 1928, he went the entire winter without selling a single drop of fuel.
“Many of us have similar stories about how we grew our businesses to the second, third and fourth generations. And along the way, a lot of us wondered if we would ever make it through some of the tough times.”
But Maverik, like many of the early convenience store pioneers, did make it. And one of the main reasons for Maverik’s success over the years comes from a concept that Call holds dear—freedom—which is also (coincidentally) the name of his hometown in Wyoming.
“We should all have the freedom to make our own choices, right? In our stores, that means our customers should be able to make their own choices, without anyone telling them what they can—or what they can’t—buy,” he said, noting that New York Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed 16-ounce beverage ban wouldn’t sit well with thirsty construction workers “who depend on our stores for their day’s hydration.”
Customers should be free to choose what they want to consume, said Call, noting that Maverik offers both higher-calorie items and healthy products.
“It’s an awesome thing that our nation is focusing on health, fitness and fighting obesity. So as retailers, what’s our responsibility? Your responsibility and my responsibility is to provide healthy choice options. But it’s not our responsibility to tell customers what they should and shouldn’t eat.”
Call stressed that consuming calories (calories in) shouldn’t be the only focus in addressing obesity—burning them off (calories out) through physical activity and exercise is equally, if not more, important. He said that Maverik is developing an app to reward people for their exercise and after they earn enough points, they are rewarded with some sort of treat from their stores.
The basic message is, “Work up a sweat, then come to our stores to re-energize!” he said.
Customizing a famous quote about freedom by the philosopher Camus, Call concluded: “Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better—without some pencil-neck regulator, or ivory-tower legislator telling you how to do it. Freedom allows us to take chances, to get a little crazy, to be adventurous, and to give customers what they want. I love living in Freedom!”