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Grand Opening: Keeping Up With the Joneses

Jones Petroleum’s 23,000-square-foot store welcomes families and truck drivers
Photograph by Steven Bullock

JACKSON, Ga. — Jones Petroleum’s newest store is full of a lot of firsts for the company. At 23,000 square feet, the JP Travel Center in Jackson, Ga., is the 50-year-old company’s largest store and its first travel center. The store’s opening in November also marked the launch of two new brands for the company: the Refresh fountain concept and Red Bug Coffee Co. coffee brand.

Add in large, attractively designed restrooms and 2,500 square feet dedicated to gifts, tchotchkes and decor, and company owner and President Bill Jones is confident that he has finally cracked one of the biggest challenges of convenience-store design.

Mama Said

“It’s the mamas out there who are going to pick where to stop for coffee or a bite to eat, and she’s going to settle on restrooms that she knows are clean,” Jones told CSP during a recent visit to the store. “We’ve only been open a few months, but I haven’t seen anyone complain about those restrooms.”

The restrooms include dozens of stalls, each separated by a full wall, as well as quartz countertops, glass-tiled accented walls and touchless faucets. Large flat-screen TVs provide a place to catch up on sports or news.

“That’s been a challenge for the industry forever: How do you get women in your store?” says Natalie Jones, vice president of retail operations and Bill Jones’ daughter. “Here, you can watch them. If a family comes in, the women go to the right (to the gift area), and the men go left to the convenience market. [The women] will spend 20 minutes picking up high-margin items before looking around the rest of the store.”

Products in the gift area change seasonally and can include baby blankets and toys, household decor, travel items, sports memorabilia—particularly related to the Georgia Bulldogs—and $200 Costa sunglasses.

“People walk in and they think Chip and Joanna Gaines [of “Fixer Upper”] have been here,” Natalie jokes. “If they see something they love, they’re not afraid to spend a couple hundred dollars with us.”

Retail Roots

But the gift area is just one of many traffic drivers. The travel center is still firmly rooted in convenience retailing.

Outside, 32 fueling positions beckon motorists, while eight high-speed diesel lanes and 85 parking spaces behind the store invite truck drivers to stop and stay awhile.

The store is bookended by two full-sized quick-service restaurants (QSRs)—a Burger King and Dunkin’—each with a drive-thru window. Inside, a Subway restaurant serves the franchise’s complete menu and shares access to Jones Petroleum’s new Refresh fountain.

The 24-head Cornelius fountain includes full complements of Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo beverages, as well as six Pure Craft sodas from Sunny Sky Products, Houston.

Director of C-Store Operations Ken Johnson says he’s “shocked” at the coffee numbers for Jones Petroleum’s Red Bug brand, supplied by S&D Coffee, Concord, N.C. Built around two Franke bean-to-cup machines, the set does away with the need for thermal pots or coffee carafes. The set also includes nitro cold brew and cappuccino machines.

“We’re amazed that with three QSR concepts, the convenience food products still sell really well.”

The 3,000-square-foot center store is anchored by a wide selection of Stuckey’s brand candies, snacks and collectibles. Three open-air coolers merchandise packaged food products, while two roller grills merchandise hot dogs and Tornados near the coffee bar.

“We have not written off a single item so far,” Natalie says. “We’re amazed that with three QSR concepts, the convenience food products still sell really well.”

The cold vault includes 11 cooler doors of nonalcohol drinks, five doors of beer and wine and a 350-square-foot beer cave.

A Georgia Grown section is part of a program sponsored by the state Department of Agriculture that encourages retailers to merchandise products made in Georgia. For JP Travel Center, this includes a curated collection of sweet and salty snacks, nuts, jerky, jelly, condiments and even dog treats.

“This has been a home run for us,” Natalie says.

Another surprise is the Chocolate Moonshine fudge counter. As a licensed seller, Jones Petroleum offers dozens of flavors of truffle bars in a department that adds to the specialty-shop feel of the travel center.

Over the Road

For truckers, the store stocks automotive and travel products and offers amenities such as spacious shower rooms, laundry facilities, a lounge area with TV and a dog park.

“We read that 60% of truck drivers travel with a pet,” Johnson says, “so that seemed like a natural addition.”

To develop the store’s design, Jones Petroleum hired Paragon Solutions, Fort Worth, Texas, who worked off one specific directive.

“We want to be the blue Panera,” Johnson says, referring to the popular fast-casual chain. “It’s almost a spa feel. It looks expensive. It’s a bright and modern look.”

“The team wanted something light and bright that felt contemporary yet comfortable,” says Whitney Burns, director of interior design for Paragon Solutions. “A neutral palette of concrete floors, whitewash wood and brick paired with pops of their signature logo blues made this space stand out.”

And to make motorists aware of the store’s unique offerings—and those impressive restrooms—Jones Petroleum advertises on billboards as far as 50 miles from the travel center. “This is the first site coming south out of Atlanta that you can easily get on and off of Interstate 75,” Bill Jones says. “And if you’re from here, you know that’s a big deal.”

For Bill, who opened his first c-store in 1968, the location is a coup. He is looking at a similar site to potentially build a second JP Travel Center.

“A store like this is expensive to open,” he says, “but if we can find the right location, we’ve seen that it’s worth it.”

STORE STATS

JP Travel Center

Size: 23,000 square feet

Address: 2718 Highway 16 West, Jackson, Ga.

Fueling spots: 32 gasoline fueling positions and eight lanes for diesel

Opened: November 2019

Notable details:

  • Retailer’s first travel center
  • Three QSRs
  • Two drive-thrus
  • Beer cave
  • 2,500 square feet of gift space
  • Fudge shop
  • Upscale restrooms

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