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Grand Opening: J&H Family Stores

J&H Oil’s new store design embraces community, foodservice and beverage merchandising
Photographs by David Sparks

BYRON CENTER, Mich. -- A specific design element—a family tree—is included in every new J&H Family Store location that’s built. The tree honors Jerry Hop, who started J&H Oil Co. in 1969, with Hop’s name at the roots of the tree and the leaves stretching overhead to indicate the communities in which the Wyoming, Mich.-based chain of 50 convenience stores does business.

“The company’s philosophy has remained unchanged for more than 40 years,” says Misty Steinhauer, who heads up purchasing and retail store branding for the company. “Courteous customer service, quality products, and safe, clean and modern facilities are key components of our growth. Supporting the communities that support us is equally as important.”

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With a mission statement that says, “When you’re here, you’re family,” J&H “strives to find ways to support the communities that support us,” Steinhauer says. The company’s Community Kickback program raises funds for a new charity monthly with the sale of a specific product. J&H matches the amount raised by customers each month and delivers a donation check to the charity. And it supports community events, Little League teams, marching bands, 4-H Clubs groups and chambers of commerce.

J&H Family Stores

For the past two years, J&H has been rolling out a new store design that underscores the importance of community, along with a new pizza program, expanded beverage set and Subway partnership that help set the chain apart from its competition. That effort is in full swing at the 8,200-square-foot J&H Family Stores that opened in Byron Center, Mich., in October 2017. CSP talked to Steinhauer about this site.

JH Convenience Store

Q: Tell us about this 1-year-old store.

A: We partnered with Gilson, a local marketing and creative firm, to create what we call the “Family Tree” concept. This site just south of Grand Rapids was a rebuild constructed on 8 acres. It is 8,200 square feet with 1,700 square feet dedicated to Subway. The Subway was one of the first locations with the “Subway of the Future” design. The site has 16 unleaded gasoline fueling positions, two ethanol-free fueling stations and five full diesel lanes. In the store, our signature design feature is the barnwood plank flooring.

Q: You invested heavily in your beverage offering in this store design. Tell us how.

A: We have highlighted the cold-vault area by adding bright subway tile, LED lights and sleek, tall doors. The new family-branded graphics make the cold vault pop.

Inside the beer cave, we added lighting to draw attention to the cave from any point in the store. We added an automatic sliding door to invite customers to walk in, plus graphics with LED lights to enhance the visibility.

Our fountain beverage area was another major focus in the new store design. Black wall paint added texture and enhanced the color of the beverage logos. We added a 20-head fountain machine with the option of cubed or crushed ice, a dozen flavors of frozen beverages, and f’real [milkshake machine].

Our signature beverage is frozen Apple Cider Slush made with Michigan apples. The graphics from the family tree coordinate with the frozen cider machines.

Q: What are some other major marketing areas of this new store?

A: We are excited about the many focal points in the new store design. We enhanced our foodservice area by introducing freshly made pizza in the store and seating areas with USB plugs for customers to charge their electronics.

To complete our enhancements to the brand and product offerings, we introduced a line of homestyle food products that resemble something grandma would can. Named J&H Family Farms, it offers everything from farmhouse pickles to berry cobbler. We use vintage-looking cabinets to display the jars, which draws attention to them.

We also added bagged candy to the front of the sales counter, initially for the sole purpose of color, but it ended up being a great-selling item as well.

“Our main objective ... was to attract women and upcoming generations.”

Q: Who is your typical customer? How does this store cater to that consumer?

A: We’ve built six new stores and renovated 16 sites with this design. Our main objective with the aesthetic was to attract women and upcoming generations while maintaining the trust and loyalty of our current demographic. The new design has proven to do just that. It truly is amazing when a local farmer walks in from the field to get a hot cup of coffee and says, “Wow, this place is really nice, and that floor is awesome!”

Q: What does J&H’s new-store growth strategy look like for the near future?

A: We are currently building our seventh new location with this design, and 2019 will be an exciting year for us, as we have at least three more sites on the slate to build.


Size: 8,200 square feet

Address: 119 100th St., Byron Center, Mich.

Fueling spots: 23

Opened: October 2017

Notable details:

  • Signature beverage: Apple Cider Slush
  • “Subway of the Future”
  • Expanded cold vault, fountain area and beer cave
  • J&H Family Farms products
  • Barnwood plank floor tile

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