Category News

Case Study: Community Convenience Store Leans into Local

Customer expectations of a welcoming store design, enhanced lighting and clean amenities are increasing. Offering local products also creates a community store atmosphere and an elevated experience for your customers.

For some consumers, location is the only consideration when choosing which gas station or convenience store to stop at to fill up their tank or pick up a snack. But more customers now expect features like welcoming lighting, clean bathrooms and a variety of healthy and local snack options at c-stores. Cooperative c-store owners are stepping up to the challenge.

For Kyle Knutson, CEO of Synergy Cooperative, these amenities were musts when building a new Cenex®-branded location in Cumberland, Wis. Busy with cabin traffic, the cooperative not only prioritized modern comforts but also built a Northwoods-themed store with vaulted knotty pine ceilings.

“Our store is a member-owned store that serves the members of the Cumberland community,” said Knutson. “When taking on this rebuild, we felt that anything we could do to benefit the store would benefit the entire community.”

To fund the project, Knutson partnered with CHS on its new LIFT initiative, a lighting, image and facilities transformation designed to revamp Cenex-branded stores through a series of exterior and interior updates, along with optional no-interest loan funding for in-store improvements.



First impressions at the pump

Consumers want a well-lit spot for gas fill-ups. As part of the LIFT initiative, every Cenex-branded store will receive an all-new Halo forecourt image that includes improvements made to the canopy, forecourt and main ID sign. Improvements also include a 360-degree LED light band, new Cenex logo signs and three-dimensional backlit blue arches.

LED Light Band Example

For Knutson, it was imperative the store design and layout attracted customers from 300 yards or more down the road. He and his team wanted the community to see a location that they couldn’t help but stop by and take a look around.

“I truly believe the new Halo image was the number one upgrade at our location,” Knutson said.  “It’s phenomenal and is really inviting to customers who stop by our store after dark.”

Inside job

The LIFT initiative also includes no-interest financing options to help retailers update store interiors. Each store team decides what to update, from bathrooms to coolers to food options to lighting. In Cumberland, Knutson incorporated open air coolers that enable him to support other local businesses.

“We wanted to work with as many local vendors as possible,” Knutson said. “We have four local vendors of meats and cheeses, but we also carry local maple syrup, honey and may have the opportunity to add a local candy bar brand.”

Inside Store

With nearly 300 Cenex-branded locations currently undergoing projects through the LIFT initiative to enhance their store experience, the Cenex brand and cooperatives are ready to meet customer demands. Knutson and his team are excited to see how the features at Synergy Cooperative will pay off in the years to come.

“I don’t know how stores wouldn’t take advantage of the LIFT initiative,” said Knutson. “It’s been a win-win for my team. It’s benefiting the Cenex brand, it’s benefiting our location and it’s certainly benefiting our bottom line.”

To learn more about the project and the LIFT initiative, visit

This post is sponsored by Cenex®