F.L. Roberts, Big Y Team Up for 'New & Exciting' Generation of C-Stores

Petroleum marketer, supermarket chain forge partnership to create "Big Y Express"

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Petroleum marketer F.L. Roberts & Co. Inc. and supermarket chain Big Y Foods Inc., have partnered in a new venture to develop their own brand of convenience stores with fuel under the name "Big Y Express." The first facility will open in the fall of this year in Lee, Mass., at Exit 2 of the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The inaugural location is the result of a carefully crafted strategic alliance, and it will incorporate a new retail design and merchandising format for F. L. Roberts and Big Y. It will feature the traditional F.L. Roberts product mix along with many Big Y proprietary private-brand products, like Big Y milk and fresh baked breads. This will be Big Y's first venture into the vehicle fueling arena. Uniquely, as well, will be the ability for both the Big Y Savings Card customers and the F. L. Roberts RewardsPlus customers, to each save money on gas purchases as well as earn discounts toward other store merchandise.

Big Y and F.L. Roberts have been conducting business in western Massachusetts for more than 75 and 90 years, respectively. Big Y is one of the largest independently owned supermarket chains in New England and F.L. Roberts owns and directly operates a network of automotive service companies, including c-stores, truck fueling facilities, car washes and Jiffy

Lube locations. The joint venture between these third- and fourth-generation, family-owned and -operated businesses was a logical next step in their relationship, which has included many past cross-marketing efforts.

F. L. Roberts will be the operating partner and fuel supplier of the new c-stores, while Big Y will provide its years of expertise marketing snack, grocery, fresh made ready to eat offerings and many of Big Y's private-label products.

Drawing on their different industry's expertise, the strategy is to create a "new and exciting generation" of c-stores, they said.

This first Big Y Express location is several hundred feet from Big Y's new World Class Market in Lee, which will be able to provide exceptional product support for the new venture. F. L. Roberts has been supplying fuel to the previous operator of this station, which will now feature Big Y brand gasolines and diesel fuel.

Contributing to the economic growth and development of the greater Springfield, Mass., area is a priority for both companies, who each operate approximately 60 sites throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut, employing a total of nearly 11,000 people.

"This new partnership gives us the best of both worlds. On the one hand, we can learn about gas stations and convenience stores. On the other, we are able to provide our expertise in food coupled with a strong private brand to enhance the experience for our customers," said Big Y president and COO Charles L. D'Amour.

The new venture will combine both companies' customer loyalty programs, which will allow Big Y customers to use their Silver Savings Card at F.L. Roberts locations for the same benefits offered in the F.L. Roberts RewardsPLUS program. Offering gasoline is a trend that many grocery chains nationwide have been replicating in order to enhance their marketing efforts.

"In keeping with both families' commitments to our founder's roots, Grandpa Frank, for Roberts, and Paul and Gerry for Big Y, this alliance is very unique in today's challenging business environment by adding to our economy's local economic growth," said Steve Roberts, F.L. Roberts president. "Instead of selling out to a big conglomerate or chain, two local, wel- established companies are combining their expertise to help each other grow to better service our customers and communities."

Big Y is one of the largest independently owned supermarket chains in New England. Founded in 1936 by brothers Paul and Gerald D'Amour, the company currently operates 60 stores throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut with almost 10,000 employees. Currently, both the second and third generation of D'Amours, are at the helm of the company.

F.L. Roberts is the largest independent petroleum marketer in western Massachusetts. The fourth-generation, family-owned business was founded in 1920 by Frank L. Roberts as an automotive parts and tire business in the south end of Springfield. Today, the company has expanded to include other automotive specialties at nearly 60 sites with 500 employees serving both motorists and neighborhoods in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Their network of automotive service companies includes 26 c-stores, 19 car washes, nine Jiffy Lubes, two truck refueling centers and the Whately Diner.