By Erin Rigik, Senior Editor
After more than 35 years in the c-store business, Jim and Pat Fash, owners and founders of Jiffy Mini Marts Inc. retired in 2011, passing ownership of the family business down to their daughter Karen Shroyer, a member of the National Advisory Group (NAG).
Shroyer has had a vested interest in the operation ever since her days helping her dad stock shelves as a kid. Now, Jiffy Mini Marts, based in Sullivan, Ind., is growing inside sales thanks to an array of new programs, plus a local edge in the community it serves.
Today, she has more interest than ever. “In 2011, dad sold eight of the nine stores, and transferred ownership of the BP Jiffy Mart in Sullivian to me,” Shroyer said.
With Shroyer taking over the lone BP Jiffy Mart, the store sold more than a million gallons of gasoline and topped $1 million dollars in inside sales.
Shroyer would have preferred to have added the other eight locations to her company portfolio, but encountered red tape when trying to finance the deal through the local bank. Nonetheless, Shroyer is determined to grow the business, first by improving the offerings and technology at the Sullivan BP Jiffy Mart store, and then expanding by acquiring a second location in the next year or two.
BP Jiffy Mart is the only c-store in the area that is locally owned, so it enjoys a competitive advantage because of ties to residents in the market.
“I find that being locally-owned really matters to people here in town,” Shroyer noted.
To further leverage this advantage, BP Jiffy Mart gives away t-shirts with its company logo at local sports games, and carries local products the other area convenience stores don’t.
“People come here because they know they can find popular local brands,” Shroyer said.
The Sullivan store was built in 1998. Since taking over the business, Shroyer has refreshed it with a new product set and fresh signage, as well as a new coffee and snack bar.
The coffee and snack bar upgrade took place in 2012 and included new graphics behind the coffee offering and wood paneling on the cabinets below for a more modern appearance. During the upgrade, the store also added a lid dispenser, which customers prefer.
“Customers like the lid dispenser because the lids don’t stick together, they’re getting the right size and they know no one has touched that lid before them,” Shroyer said. It’s little touches like that that keep BP Jiffy Mart top of mind for local customers.
Shroyer also introduced a Hot Bistro program from H.T. Hackney Foodservice that has met with rave reviews from customers. The offerings arrive frozen and are warmed on site, and include soups, chicken and dumplings, hash brown casseroles and pulled pork. The recipes come from CrackerBarrel and Ruby Tuesday, which sell them under the “Bistro” name.
“Everyone loves the chili—that seems to be the favorite,” Shroyer said. “We also offer a broccoli and cheese soup and we originally tried to take that out to offer the pulled pork, but people complained—so we added a crock pot for the pulled pork. Our sausage gravy and hash brown casserole is also a customer favorite.”
Hungry customers can also tackle an extensive roller grill and grab-and-go bakery program. Those looking for a sweet treat will find another new addition—a Cold Cow Milkshake program, which Shroyer selected because it was less expensive than other milkshake programs on the market that required equipment to mix the shake, while Cold Cow is easily thawed in a microwave.
Positioned directly off a major highway, BP Jiffy Mart’s fountain program is another popular draw. The fountain itself offers sugar-free flavor shots, but customers can find bottles of sugar syrups on the counter as well to help them customize their beverage.
To build loyalty, BP Jiffy Mart offers a paper punch card for the coffee and fountain programs, and while Shroyer has polled her regular customers about switching to a swipeable loyalty card, she finds her core customer base is content with punch cards for now. “Our customers like the punch card system where they get the seventh one free and get that physical punch in their card, so for now we’re continuing with the punch cards,” Shroyer said.
Growing Up in the Business
The original Jiffy Mini Marts was founded in 1975 when Jim Fash founded the business by opening a full-service Amoco station with a service bay and car wash. In 1983 he opened the first Jiffy Mini Mart, which measured a modest 800 square feet. The unit remained in operation until 2007 when Fash had it razed and rebuilt.
Shroyer fondly remembers the early days of the company and growing up in the family business. Her parents came up with the name Jiffy Mini Marts. “In those days you had to have a slogan and a jiggle for the TV commercials, so mom came up with the slogan, which was ‘Get it in a Jiffy,’ and we have a cousin who is a singer who created the jingle and sang it for us,” Shroyer said.
At its peak, the chain operated 11 stores in Indiana, and then sold two off.
“I liked working in the c-store when I was little,” Shroyer said. She remembers getting to take a day off school to help out with the car wash when it broke down.
“If the car wash wasn’t drying, my brother and I would dry the cars with towels, and if it wasn’t soaping we’d help soap the cars,” she added. She also helped pump gas and helped her father build gondolas and set shelves with products.
Pat Fash took care of all the bookwork for the company.
“When I wasn’t in school or playing sports, I was helping dad with the stores or the service station and really enjoyed all the time we spent together and all that he has taught me,” Shroyer said.
A Family Affair
Shroyer wants her kids to have the opportunity to learn about the business too—if they aspire to someday. Shroyer and her husband Mark, who helps out with store lighting and maintenance, have four children: Justin (24), Caleb (19) and twins Randy and Rachel (14).
“Caleb helped out in the store when he was in high school to earn spending money, and Randy has already expressed interest in working in the store one day,” Shroyer said.
In the future she hopes to start teaching the twins the register. Regardless of whether they follow in their mother’s footsteps, her kids are already helpful in giving her the teenage perspective on interesting products and promotions the competition is running.
As a second generation head of a family business, Shroyer feels fortunate she has her parents around to bounce ideas off of. “It’s nice because they have so much experience in the industry and dad is just a phone call away to answer questions,” she said.