Company News

Indie Closeup: Born for Retail

For Alex Weatherall, owner of Sherborn Market, a newer channel is delivering the same winning result
sherborn market
Photograph courtesy of Sherborn Market

A former supermarket buyer and category manager, Alex Weatherall has been immersed in convenience retailing since 2010—parlaying his experience at Wegmans Food Markets to apply the same winning strategy at his 3,300-sq.ft. Sherborn Market.

Located in Sherborn, Massachusetts, an affluent community southwest of Boston, the store owned by Weatherall and his wife/co-owner Laura has watched both fuel and inside sales increase significantly since their convenience indoctrination 13 years ago, all thanks to several key operational decisions.

“We let the products shine, to be in the spotlight. When you walk into the store all customers see is ‘product’.”

An unbranded fuel marketer, Weatherall jumped shipped from CITGO years ago, and has leveraged his unbranded fuel advantage of lower street prices, all while enjoying solid profits and ensuring high customer satisfaction.

“We have no gas stations within four to five miles,” he said. “People have told me we could probably set prices far higher based on the lack of local competition, but I don’t play that game. We make a profit but are very mindful of customer mindsets. They’re smart, and know when they’re being taken advantage of.”

One overarching key: Weatherall walks a fine line to make sure customers never feel “sticker shock” on any items or commodities sold—but value. “In 2014, I had annual gas throughput of 625,000 gallons, but that has increased to 900,000 gallons—we’re looking to exceed 1 million gallons sold by end of 2023,” said Weatherall.

Inside the store, Weatherall accumulated sales of $487,000 in 2011, but last year amassed $769,000, a 58% increase. The reason? “We let the products shine, be in the spotlight. When you walk into the store all customers see is ‘product’.”  

Shedding additional light on a merchandising strategy he once implemented at New York-based Wegmans, Weatherall added, “We have very muted color scheme throughout the store, from floor to walls to decor. I learned that people’s eyes wander if you have a ‘splashy’ store with variant colors—and products might not be noticed. Many look up instead of ‘out.’ We’re able to fill the market basket when we let the products shine.”

Rich History

Sherborn Market serves residents of Sherborn, a town of about 4,400 residents, and neighboring Dover, Medfield, Natick and Framingham. It makes available propane refill service, grocery essentials, beer, wine, dairy, lottery, pizza—and also features a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise. Weatherall currently offers no foodservice, but plans to launch a full-service deli in the near future. (Weatherall is in the process of remodeling an adjacent structure to the store to provide more space for Dunkin’.)

Years ago, Sherborn resident George Sturgis acquired what had once been known as Village Market, performed a major renovation and then sold out in 2004. When the new owners grew tired of operating a c-store, Weatherall pounced on the opportunity and bought the location in 2010.

During the early years, Laura Weatherall designed the store’s systems and processes and also ran the store when Alex Weatherall worked at a Boston healthcare company. He stepped away from that profession in 2016 to concentrate solely on convenience retailing.

While he knew little about convenience, his grocery retailing affinity came in handy during the retail channel conversion—parlaying those tenets to Sherborn Market. “I first interned at a Wegmans, was promoted to buyer and then category manager,” he said. “I was good at merchandising and understood tactical pricing. One thing I never do is activate elaborate promotional campaigns. A lot of everyday-low and consistent pricing is what we emphasize.”  

One tenet of Weatherall is to, for example, lock in a 25% margin on beer instead of 30% to 35%, which keeps his ledger in good shape without giving customers sticker shock. “Most are smart and know that I am a ‘convenience retailer.’ They grasp the concept and know they’ll have to pay a little more for a package of Oreos.”

Other aspects of Sherborn Market include:

  • Unbranded fuel. An unbranded retailer with four multipump dispensers (MPDs) and eight fueling positions, Weatherall opted to go the unbranded route and collaborated with a designer on creating a logo and brand scheme. “I think it’s silly to be branded when you can have your own—otherwise it’s throwing money away,” he said. “We have solar panels on our canopy and Gilbarco Encore S Series pumps that are EMV [Europay, Mastercard, Visa]-compatible. One thing we’re known for is offering the best prices for our premium fuel, as we opted to emphasize that grade.”
  • Local entrepreneurs. Some local products offered in the store include Stormalong Cider (Massachusetts craft cider that produces a wide range of ciders that emphasize apple quality and character); 3Bee’s Protein Bites (handcrafted, allergy-friendly and made from natural superfood ingredients); Appalachian Jerky (two partners liked jerky so much they started making their own and launched Naked Cow Jerky); and Nutty Bird Premium Handcrafted Granola (takes the best ingredients, mixes and packs them in small batches).
  • Strong staff support. One employee, manager Marcello Pinho, has been with the store since it opened. “He loves retail and loves running the business. In the early years, Laura had to cope with a lot of turnover. For us, having a good personality is essential. In our experience, the best hires are the ones who are middle-class folks who can think on their feet. I have one kid, Ethan, that I’m sending to a foodservice training class in Boston because I want him to run the deli when I build it.”
  • The clientele. “We once saw few locals shopping the store, relying on a lot of tradesmen. But we worked to cater to both, so now the construction worker customer nicely coexists with the female shopper. Plus, on weekends we get more locals and fewer tradesmen, so they are able to pick up the slack for us.”

Summing up his 13-year c-store journey, Weatherall said, “I like working in retail because every day you get graded on your performance—you see results every day. If that excites you, then that makes retail fun. And if you make substantive improvements, they’ll keep coming back.”

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a CSP member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


How to Make the C-Store the Hero for Retail Media Success

Here’s what motivates consumers when it comes to in-store and digital advertising

Mergers & Acquisitions

Soft Landing Now, But If Anyone Is Happy, Please Stand Up to Be Seen

Addressing the economic elephants in the room and their impact on M&A


Opportunities Abound With Limited-Time Offers

For success, complement existing menu offerings, consider product availability and trends, and more, experts say


More from our partners