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Indie Closeup: The Road Clears for Beaudry Express

A hometown store weathers the challenges of 2020 by staying essential to customers
Beaudry Express
Photograph courtesy of Beaudry Express

ELK RIVER, Minn. — Count Minnesota retailer Josh Lund among those happy to have 2020 in the rearview mirror. By this past summer, the independent convenience-store owner had suffered a debilitating one-two punch of enduring COVID-19 pandemic business stresses along with a vexing local road construction project.

Both kept customers away from his Beaudry Express c-store as they curtailed travel during the pandemic or because they simply found it hard to navigate the construction, keeping them from visiting his 2,000-square-foot store in Elk River, Minn.

The upside is that absence made many customers’ hearts grow fonder. “Many told us that when they went to competing c-stores for their morning coffee, doughnut or lunch, they didn’t get the same level of customer service they receive from us,” says Lund, whose Shell-branded unit, averaging 200,000 gallons per month in fuel volume, is equipped with nine fueling dispensers and two touch-free car washes. “People come to Beaudry Express because we’re both accessible and friendly.”

Lund chalks up the high level of customer service to the loyalty he’s established with his own employees. The store located about 30 miles north of the Twin Cities has 15 full-time associates, most of whom have been with the company for years.

“We’ve one person who’s worked here since 1993,” says Lund. “I’m picky when it comes to hiring. I believe you can teach people how to ring up items, but we look for personalities. I encourage them to chat with customers, don’t be shy about it.”

Adds Lund, “I want people to work hard but have fun, and I let them know that my job is not to baby sit. People understand their roles and get some wiggle room.”

Local Flavor

The single-store owner, who is switching gasoline flags to Marathon this year, has been locally family-owned and operated since 1993. The store initially opened as a Texaco station with one touch-free car wash. A second touch-free wash was added in 1996.

The 100% touch free washes with equipment from Green Bay, Wis.-based PDQ have a capacity to service 150 cars a day, with price tiers ranging from $7 to $12.

Lund and his wife, Lisa, have been second-generation store owners since 2005. Both graduates of Elk River High School, the owners emphasize that all things local is essential to their business fortunes. “We’re committed to delivering fast and friendly service to all customers. Our motto is: Let us be your hometown store,” Josh Lund says.

“People come to Beaudry Express because we’re both accessible and friendly.”

The store backs up the commitment well, with proof seen in being named the local Star News Reader’s Choice “Best Car Wash” from 2014 to 2017 and “Best Gas Station” in 2017 and 2019.

Despite the local esteem, Beaudry Express still found itself challenged when part of state Hwy. 10 closed for construction this past summer, making it difficult to get to the store. “The loss of [sales] dollars was crazy,” says Lund, adding that high-velocity coffee and doughnut sales took the biggest hit with a 35% decline.

But with the construction and 2020 behind it, Lund is optimistic he can get the store back on track. In 2021, he is looking to execute an in-store refresh project to include updated gondolas, fixtures and coffee counters, which he says have “taken a beating.” The good news about that “beating'?” It’s the direct result of ample use by the multitude of customers who consider Beaudry Express to be an essential piece of their daily regimens.

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