Corralling the Customers

There’s little debating the sort of purchase Buffalo Bill Cody would make these days if he could ramble into one of the southwest Missouri corner stores that brandish his name.

“He seemed like a beef jerky kind of guy to me,” Curtis Jared, president and CEO of Cody’s Convenience Stores, said of the cowpoke-turned-entertainer who’s been on the underside of a daisy since 1917.

Of course that’s not to ignore the likelihood that Buffalo Bill, no matter what’s selling at Cody’s c-stores nowadays, would be mighty pleased to find the Rogersville, Mo., store that bore his name since the mid 1800s has blossomed into one of the mightiest c-store chains in this part of the state. 

In a trick not even Buffalo Bill himself could perform, Jared, 29, has managed to create a 36-store convenience chain out of a single store in less than seven years. 

“If you asked me five years ago if I’d had this many stores … I don’t know,” Jared said. “But the one thing I always say is, you can’t do it without good people around you, both in the office and in the stores. Without them, I’m nothing.”

The Legend of Cody’s

As the story goes, the first Cody’s store opened in Rogersville in the mid 1800s, and was named after the famous Buffalo Bill when he and his rodeo performers visited the town for a spell. It operated as a general store until 1924, when it was reshaped as something resembling a convenience store.

In 2002, Jared purchased the store through his position as vice president at CRW Properties. Inside of seven years, he has grown that single Rogersville store into a chain the Springfield Business Journal has recognized as one of Springfield’s best places to work.

New construction and major acquisitions in Cody’s history have contributed to its breakneck growth, including the purchase late last year of six bankrupt Express Lane stores and this year’s purchase of nine Snak Atak stores in Joplin, Mo. The chain currently has 36 stores, and has just opened a 10,000-square-foot travel center on a five-acre site in Springfield.

There are also plans to open a few more stores before year’s end.

According to the Business Journal, Cody’s posted revenues of $91.9 million last year, up from $30.6 million in 2006. The company has enjoyed a staggering 723% growth rate since 2005, but the success of the chain’s glory hasn’t been defined by physical growth alone.  

“We focus heavily on customer service and cleanliness,” said Jared, whose title recently shifted from executive vice president to president and CEO. “It’s probably one of the biggest things that people like about us, is we try to do things differently. If everyone’s doing this or that, we do something different.”

As a result, the chain avoids promotions that resemble anything offered by competitors. Instead of a passé buy-one-get-one promotion on a Pepsi product, for instance, Cody’s is now offering a month-long buy-one-get-two promotion as part of Mountain Dew’s “Dewmocracy” promotion.

“Buy one, get two free. You can’t beat that,” Jared said, adding that it creates a long-term effect where Cody’s customers drop by the store simply to check on new promotions. “You draw customers in and they constantly see this ‘too-good-to-be-true promotion,’ and it causes people  to think, ‘Huh, I wonder what Cody’s got going on today.’”

The chain recently began offering Broaster’s Chicken and Hot Stuff Foods, both of which Jared said are proving to be a draw for the foodservice program. It’s also one of the only c-stores in the southwest Missouri market to offer alternative fuel, including E85 pumps at three stores with two more scheduled for the near future.

“Lead by example, as the old saying goes,” Jared said. And never be satisfied with mediocrity. “We’re never happy. If you just stand still and say I’m happy with this … you’ll eventually fall behind. Yes, It’s good today … (but) how can we make it better tomorrow?”


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