Single Store Owner

OCT 2016

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OCTOBER 2016 / singlestoreowner.com / 21 "We're a 'Retail Rescue,'" Zielinski said of his company's work. "We don't just operate a store at the status quo. We aim to fix it." MEZ went through three managers before find- ing the right store manager for this location. "We also had to educate the owner on the types of com- pensation packages needed to attract a competent manager," Zielinski told Single Store Owner. "People either have a passion for running a c-store built into them, or not." One of the keys was finding a manager who understood the foodservice business. "That hir- ing enabled us to feel comfortable bringing in a pizza program, a new roller grill item, and a new sandwich," he said. "We may expand to a doughnut program, and we are looking for a franchise to put into the drive-thru window." Of course, all of these improvements required an owner willing to invest in the site. "He [Patel] was close to closing the store. We had to make the improvements methodically as we built volume and profitability," explained Zielinski. "It took a while and it helped that one of our competitors closed nine months after we started managing the store. "When we first got here, one of the first things the owner wanted to do was remodel the store," he continued. "We told him to wait. We needed a better assessment of the location and the demographics before remodeling." They might not have to wait much longer, though. Zielinski said sales for the month of July 2016 were the best in the store's history. "We're still in growth mode. Our work's not done that was good" about the roughly 13-year-old store. "It was in a challenging location to begin with," said Zielinski, as the store's product mix was insufficient for both the core upper middle-class local clientele, as well as the transient population that came into the store due to its location right off an expressway. Besides being dirty and disorganized, the store's customer service was poor. "The inmates were run- ning the asylum," said Zielinski. In addition, the store's pricebook was out-of-date. "They had premium cigarettes at three different price levels," he said. Among the store's sanitation problems: the ice machine was broken, grease trays were overflowing, and the cooler needed to be cleaned and reset. A litany of other problems included: • Disinterested employees, and no uniforms uniforms for them; for them; • N • No discipline when it came to gas pricing; prices ipline • No discipline when it came to gas pricing; prices when it came to gas pricing; prices were not changed often enough to keep up with hanged were not changed often enough to keep up with often enough to keep up with the competition; mpetition; the competition; • Light fixtures broken or burned out; fixtur • Light fixtures broken or burned out; broken • Light fixtures broken or burned out; or burned out; • Security cameras out of order; and curity • Security cameras out of order; and out • Security cameras out of order; and of order; and • A fuel tank problem that forced the store to A • A fuel tank problem that forced the store to fuel • A fuel tank problem that forced the store to that • A fuel tank problem that forced the store to forced the store to cl close one tank for three weeks. weeks. "And vendors were running rampant, especial- unning "And vendors were running rampant, especial- rampant, especial- ly in ly in novelties and general merchandise, which neral ly in novelties and general merchandise, which merchandise, which are tw are two important areas for a travel location," areas are two important areas for a travel location," for a travel location," not noted Zielinski. THE TURNAROUND BEGINS… RNAROUND THE TURNAROUND BEGINS… BEGINS… One and a half years later, Mid America Market ap- d One and a half years later, Mid America Market ap- a half years later, Mid America Market ap- pears to be back on track. "A lot of issues have been to pears to be back on track. "A lot of issues have been be back on track. "A lot of issues have been fixed," said Zielinski, "but that was just table stakes." xed," fixed," said Zielinski, "but that was just table stakes." said Zielinski, "but that was just table stakes." With the fuel tank issue resolved, the 5,600-square-foot store (including one of Patel's 2,000-square-foot Subway franchises) is now see- ing double-digit increases in fuel volume and near double-digit increases in in-store sales. "We did have some things to work with. For example, example, the beer cave. And the store has an unused the beer cave. And the store has an unused drive-thru that we haven't yet taken advantage of," e-thru drive-thru that we haven't yet taken advantage of," that we haven't yet taken advantage of," said Zielinski. Zielinski. said Zielinski. His His team also went through each product team also went through each product category to review margins and began applying ategory category to review margins and began applying to review margins and began applying category category management best practices across the store. management best practices across the store. In addition, MEZ brought in f 'real milkshakes, a new non-carbonated frozen drink offer, and then a carbonated frozen drink. The hot coffee program was revamped, too, and a fresh, baked-on-site cookie program launched. When we first got here, one of the first things the owner wanted to do was remodel the store. We told him to wait. We needed a better assessment of the location and the demograph- ics before remodeling. — MICHAEL ZIELINSKI, MEZ ENTERPRISES INC. " "

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