All Aboard the Kelly Express Mart

Kelly Fuels is unifying its nine stores under a single retail brand and upping its investment in foodservice.

By Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.

Kelly Fuels Inc. is moving full steam ahead in 2012, rebranding its nine Michigan c-stores under the Kelly Express Mart brand, and giving its locations a full facelift with an express train theme to highlight speedy service.

The chain recently debuted its Kelly Express Mart prototype store in Albion, Mich., in December 2011. This July, it is set to convert three more sites to the Kelly Express Mart brand, complete with a full interior makeover by D|Fab. The remaining five sites are scheduled to change over to the Kelly Express Mart brand later this year and all new stores going forward will fly the Express Mart banner.

In addition to convenience stores, Kelly Fuels also operates two Kelly Express Wash car washes in Jackson, Mich. and Dimondale, Mich.; two Hardware stores (Hammond Hardware in Jackson, Mich. and B&B Hardware in Napoleon, Mich.); two Pacific Pride commercial fueling sites in Jackson, Mich. and three Subway restaurants.

Laying the Track
The new Kelly Express Mart prototype store replaced a convenience store that was built in 1959 and originally served as a two-bay service garage. The raze and rebuild began in the fall of 2011 under the direction of general contractor R.W. Mercer. The company partnered with Covalle Group Architects of Jackson, Mich. to design the new building, and with D|Fab, of Madison Heights, Mich., on the interior design and décor.

The ensuing 6,100-square-foot store reopened for business just days before Christmas, complete with an updated look and a new Subway franchise that Kelly Fuels operates with its own employees.

When it embarked on the prototype design, Kelly Fuels set its sights on creating a “clean, safe and exciting destination that focused on customer service,” said Rich Tallman, president of Kelly Fuels. “Our starting point for design was twofold: having the best possible checkout area with a lot of space—which we lacked—and great bathrooms. We definitely accomplished that and successfully created a positive retail environment. All the wonderful feedback from our customers, old and new, has been rewarding.”

Kelly Fuels approached D|Fab looking to reenergize the retail nature of the brand. “They had a location in another city branded as Kelly Express Mart and felt that brand was relevant, could carry them into the future and also bring a freshness to some existing locations,” said Tony Camilletti, executive vice president of D|Fab.

Together, Kelly Fuels and D|Fab worked to find ways to infuse the brand with energy and excitement to make it memorable for customers and differentiate the chain in a competitive market.

“One of the executives has an affinity for trains, and the word ‘express’ came to mind as a tie-in to trains, so we looked at applying a retro yet contemporary idea of an express train,” Camilletti said.

Running with the train concept, D|Fab used an express train image in the company logo and tied the concept into the interior design of the store.

“It’s always fun when a retail brand can enliven itself with an iconic image that will create an instant impression in people’s minds, have a tie-in with what the retail brand is all about and just create a sense of fun and experience,” Camilletti said.

Train Depot Design
The new design uses the retro train theme complete with strong and bold graphic imagery on the walls, diagonal lines and overlapping colors applied with a painted stencil to bring a feeling of motion, perspective and landscaping into the retail environment.

The color scheme calls on bold, bright and contrasting colors, including a range of oranges and blues. Additional bright colors are used to highlight various sections of the store, including a blue wall motif at the front end, red wall tile behind the fountain machines and bold yellows and oranges in the rear of the store.

The train station theme is carried throughout the store with signage that also calls out designated store destinations. The checkout counter, for example, features an oversized “train wheels” canopy overhead and is titled “Express Checkout.” A partition that separates the Subway sandwich counter from the Express Mart features the retro train logo in a translucent material that is mounted on the divider, which includes the same bold stenciled graphic pattern featured throughout the store.

Other sections of the store continue the train station theme, including: Beverage Depot, Cooling Station and Beer Stop, to help busy customers quickly find the product they’re seeking.

To add further ease to the shopping experience, aisles feature t-bars that attach to the gondolas calling out the products guests can find there.

The Beverage Depot, where guests can get a hot beverage or fountain drink, acts as the centerpiece of the store. It includes awnings and signage that juts from the wall via a red rail suspended from the ceiling, creating a sense of dimension.

Special lighting hangs between the awnings to further convey the feeling of a train depot, while dynamic red wall tile behind the fountain machines and a red countertop on the hot beverage bar attract customer attention.

Kelly Express Mart has two entrances, both surrounded by ledge-stone framing and highlighting a new brand sign featuring the retro-train logo.

Chugging Ahead
This July, three more stores will convert to the Kelly Express Mart Brand, and the remaining locations will follow suit, with the goal of having all stores unified under the new design and brand by the end of 2012.

“As time goes by it gets harder and harder to maintain our aging properties and continue to offer the best possible experience for our guests, so we will continue to update our locations when appropriate,” Tallman said. “All future rebuilds/remodels will have some version of our Albion site’s design,” Tallman said.

Kelly Fuels Inc. At A Glance

In 1984, Kelly Distributing CO. purchased Snyder Fuel & Supply Co., which featured home heating oil, coal and three retail service stations. Included in the three retail stores was the Albion, Mich. site that had just been converted from a two-bay service station to a convenience store. The company’s name was changed to Kelly Fuels Inc. in 1985, and today it operates nine stores.

Headquarters: Jackson, Mich.
Fuel Brands: Exxon, Mobil and Marathon
Executive Team:
Richard Tallman, President
John L. Olds, Chief Financial Officer
Andrea Storer, Retail Operations Manager
Shari Kiss, Pricebook/Promotions Coordinator
Mickey Lefere, Properties Manager


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