Single Store Owner

AUG-SEP 2016

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24 / Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner / AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2016 cover story and he defines his service area as the entire city. "We're not the only destination here," he said. "But we are the best destination." According to Pate, taking an interest in his customers is what sets Andy's Corner apart from his c-store and QSR competition in the vicinity. "We care about people when they walk in," he stated. "Sometimes they will ask for a product they've seen elsewhere that we don't carry. Sometimes we've never even heard of what they're looking for. In that case, we'll ask our partner Eby-Brown if it's available. If it is, that product is in my store within seven days. That makes our customers happy and keeps them coming back." Another key attribute in Andy's Corner's success is maintaining a spotless appearance. "If you have a clean store, you'll have more customers," said Pate. "It's that simple." With one elementary school, one middle school and one high school in the immediate area, young students are among Pate's best morning customers during the school year. In the afternoon, the cus- tomer base expands as several businesses are located close to Andy's Corner. "And since we are the only convenience store in town that serves food, that cer- tainly boosts our business later in the day," he noted. His customer base is evenly split between male/ female and youth/teen/adult. He targets each demographic by offering specific products that appeal to each group. "For instance, let's say a blue-collar male comes in looking for fried chicken and biscuits. We have that," he explained. "School kids come in the morning to grab breakfast. Then, they're back again after school, so I have a f 'real milkshake machine." Milkshakes have become a major profit center for Pate. Overall, he reports his foodservice operation is busy from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. "We don't do dinner," he noted, "so we shut most of our foodservice down at 3 p.m." However, Andy's Corner will still offer grab- and-go sandwiches, milkshakes, hot coffee and iced coffee throughout the day and evening. The store is open 4 a.m. to midnight Monday-Saturday; 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sundays. And, as you might expect, Pate is there most of the time. "I like to talk to the people and get ideas about what they want," he said. "It's really fun to be a conve- nience store owner in a small town because everyone gets to know you." (How small? Suburbanstats.org lists the current population of Tunnel Hill at 856.) "You are basically running a family business," continued Pate. "You are part of the community, and it's like you're serving your family. I'd rather have 100 stores in small towns than one big store in a big city." to our customers faster and more efficiently is a top priority for us," Gabriel shared. Toward that end, the business is currently involved in a significant tech- nology upgrade. "Telephone apps, online…That's all in the works," she said. Andy's Corner, Tunnel Hill, Ga. Proprietor: Andy Pate Andy Pate has been in the foodservice business for four years now. After purchasing a gas station that already featured a deli, the decision to offer food at Andy's Corner in Tunnel Hill, Ga., was a foregone conclusion. Although Andy's Corner — a Southern-style deli, plus a variety of grab-and-go items — does have tables and chairs, Pate's foodservice business is primarily takeout. During the school year, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a hit with the kids. In addition, Pate does a brisk breakfast business, offer- ing coffee and biscuits. But his bread-and-butter sales come during the mid-day. "We also have solid lunch sales among office workers in the area," he noted. "We offer a wide variety of products that allow customers to make choices." Pate estimates approximately 150-200 customers visit Andy's Corner each day specifically for food, Andy Pate's Andy's Corner in Tunnel Hill, Ga., does a brisk breakfast busi- ness, but his lunch sales and superior customer service set him apart from the competition.

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