Motomart Gets Its Name in Lights

Chain earns energy efficiency award from St. Charles, Mo., Chamber of Commerce

BELLEVILLE, Ill. -- Rob Forsyth, president of FKG Oil, operator of the Motomart chain of convenience stores, and Daniel Duncan, vice president of facilities for the chain, recently won the St. Charles Employer of the Year Award for energy efficiency, said The St. Charles Patch. It is one of four Chamber of Commerce awards, including recognition for categories such as service, retail and manufacturing/industrial.

Motomart earned the honor by building its location in New Town, one of three sites it runs in St. Charles. The family-owned chain operates 75 convenience [image-nocss] stores across six Midwestern states.

The New Town location, which opened early last year, contains "green" features including insulated translucent skylight panels that allow in natural light, energy efficient air hand dryers and HVAC units with non-ozone depleting refrigerant.

But the centerpiece of the store's sustainability features is the lighting. Lay-in energy efficient parabolic fixtures with electronic ballasts and T-8 lamps illuminate the sales area, while employing light-emitting diode (LED) technology outside. LEDs also play a role along the doors of coolers in the form of strip lighting.

"When LEDs first came out, they were very expensive and with the fact that more people are using them, the price has come down considerably," Duncan told the newspaper. "When we started, we were paying over $400 per fixture. Now, it's down to $210 and the technology has gotten better with that."

They also save on bills, cutting by half the amount of electricity used by the T-8 fixtures and they use only a quarter as much power as a T-12, the report said.

And those savings are a big reason why Motomart is doing what it is doing. As innovative as the New Town location may seem, Forsyth said it is basically the standard template for new stores.

Forsyth knows it is good when finances work hand-in-hand with social responsibility. "On a realistic basis, people in homes or businesses do things when the numbers line up correctly," he told the paper. "It makes you feel good and it makes your pocketbook feel good too."

Regarding the LED exterior lighting, he said, "We actually got some national recognition for that one too because we were one of the first stores in the country that went to all LED lighting on the outside fixtures. Not only are we saving a ton of money on the electricity, but we are saving a ton of maintenance too because these bulbs have an incredibly long life."

The 4,120-sq. ft. store saved more than 120,000 kilowatt hours last year as compared to a comparable Springfield, Ill., location with conventional metal halide fixtures, the report said. The latter burned through more than 430,000 kilowatt hours. Management said that comes out to an annual power savings of planting 23 acres of trees or saving more than 11,000 gallons of gasoline, the equivalent of removing 17 cars from the road.

From a business perspective, it just makes sense, Duncan added. "Upfront costs are higher. You just have to be willing to put up the money ahead of time," he said. "You get the return on the energy usage over time."

Forsyth said there is a third dimension to the choice to go green. It does not just cost less and use less. It also looks better.

"The lighting upgrades are one of those things where you have your cake and eat it too," he said. "You can save money and improve the appearance of your premises. The quality of light from all of these lighting products is so much crisper."

Forsyth compares it to the bright, clean feel of a jewelry store showcase. "You go into older stores with older lighting and it kind of feels yellow, almost like you are underwater," he said.

He said he thinks the move to recognize enterprises in this category will help spread the word to other businesses about the benefits of sustainable practices. "It's not a hard sell but people have to listen," he said. "People can block out a salesman easily but they tend to listen more to other businesses. That's why it's so great. They are giving me a podium, a few minutes. Often that's all it takes for these other businesses to say, 'Huh, now why don't I look into that?'."

The store is getting recognition of another type as well. Forsyth said students from John Burroughs High School will be stopping by as part of a class trip to discuss its innovations. "We know other companies are doing more than we are," Forsyth told the paper. "We're just happy to do our part, and we're really happy to be recognized for it."