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Indie Closeup: Spreading the Word About Hummus

Iconic snack brings in customers from far and wide
Olmsted Falls Mobil Exxon Cafe
Photograph courtesy of Olmsted Falls Mobil Exxon Cafe

OLMSTEAD FALLS, Ohio — A store exuding a rural feel, Olmsted Falls Mobil Exxon Cafe corners the market on its retail advantage in several ways.

Located in Olmsted Falls, Ohio, about an hour southwest of Cleveland, the convenience store is owned by father Tony and son Khalil Dari, who double as proprietors of the Marathon-branded service station across the street.

When it comes to the 3,500-square-foot c-store, the advantages start with its remote location, which deals with far less retail competition than other retailers might. The store also boasts an ability to leverage its competencies and those of the adjacent station, where c-store customers might get their oil changed.

Homemade Momma Mary Hummus is the gold standard draw. The store puts itself firmly on the map with residents of the northern Ohio town thanks to fresh homemade packaged hummus that includes unique flavors such as bacon, vegan Buffalo and cranberry.

In mid-August, the line added Garlic & Serrano pepper hummus topped with fresh parsley. On its Facebook page, staff calls it “A Taste of Palestine, as it reminds her of all the delicious aromas of her homeland and it’s her favorite flavor.”

Proudly and prominently displayed on the store’s street-side backlit Mobil sign, people “come out of their way to buy hummus,” said store manager Debbie Trsek about the 8-ounce clear-window packages available in as many as 16 flavors, with several rotated in and out seasonally. “College students from Cincinnati will travel here just to buy it. Mary started with a few flavors, and it just expanded. The ‘foodies’ caught wind of it and, eventually, so did the local Cleveland TV stations and newspapers.”

Rattle & Hummus

Named after family matriarch Mary Dari, the hummus is prepared three to four times a week, and by Sunday, it’s typically sold out. The spread is in such demand that Mary Dari delivers it to a local flea market, where it also sells out.

A 9-year vet of the convenience store with another 23 years at another c-store chain, Trsek is entrusted with much responsibility at Olmsted Falls Mobil Exxon Cafe—so much that Khalil Dari gives her the green light to engage with local and national media, including CSP.

Trsek shared some insights recently about the store and its many advantages, including:

  • Motivated Staff. “It’s a good work environment—we have a lot of fun,” said Trsek. “I’m store manager in title mainly—we have a very competent group and I consider all of us as equals. The ‘store manager’ is mainly important for signing off on things like vendor purchase orders (VPOs). We have a total of 10 employees—half part-timers and half full-time, and we schedule shifts from 5:30 am to midnight. On the customer side we get a lot of diverse people in here. We get customers from over.”
  • Forecourt fortunes.“We have two pumps and four fueling positions with a good-size parking lot,” said Trsek. “The station had formerly been branded Sunoco, and some of that branding still exists. We continue to sell Sunoco racing fuel, for instance. We actually switched to Mobil in 2020, when the supplier provided Tony and Khalil with added incentives to re-brand by picking up many expenses for new multi-pump dispensers and other branding investments.
  • Foodservice as profit center. “Tony and Khalil recently expanded our foodservice several ways: we acquired a new hummus mixer, deep fryer for chicken and a meat slicer,” Trsek said. “We do well with food—we do not offer in-store seating, but do have a picnic table outside.”
  • Destination drivers.Packaged hummus brings people inside the store, and that triggers sale of other goods and services. “We provide custom, made-to-order sandwiches from a full-serve deli, and offer Chester’s Fried Chicken, beef and chicken gyros, Vienna-branded corned beef, plus pita bread and chips that pair well with hummus,” said Trsek. “The most popular flavor is dill pickle hummus, and some seasonal one include Buffalo cauliflower and chicken. Our flavor rotation is seasonal, as we re-introduce ones for Memorial and Labor days, Thanksgiving and Christmas, Super Bowl and spring/summer favorites.”
  • Display techniques. “Mary decorates the open-air cooler merchandising area, creating her own labels for hummus.” Dari makes hundreds of units per week, with price points ranging from $4.99 to $5.99. The more expensive ones include a feta cheese mix. “The 8-ounce clear plastic packages are transparent to benefit customers to see what they’re buying,” she said. To stimulate compatible bundling opportunities, staff stocks lightly toasted pita bread sprinkled with olive oil and bagged pita chips to pair with hummus varieties.

Word about the Olmsted Falls Mobil Exxon Café continues to spread, as smoothly as the destination-driving hummus.

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