Company News

Wally’s and Hop Shops Share Brand Marketing Tips

Convenience-store retailers offer insights on mascots, more in education session at M-PACT
Photograph by CSP Staff

Authenticity and growing a brand organically are important marketing strategies, said Michael Rubenstein, Wally's president and CEO, and Damon Bail, vice president of retail marketing and operations with Valor Oil, at the annual Midwest Fuel and Convenience Trade Show (M-PACT) in Indianapolis April 2-4.

In the session Growing Your Brand and Road Tripping!, moderated by Brian Clark, executive director of the Kentucky Petroleum Marketers Association (KPMA), Rubenstein shared with attendees what was Wally’s breakout component and how mascots should be genuinely generated.

With a retro feel from a 70s or 80s family road trip, Wally’s currently operates two convenience stores, the firsy in Pontiac, Illinois, and the second in Fenton, Missouri. Rubenstein told the audience that Wally’s will break ground on its third location in Whitestown, Indiana, early this summer and has plans for a fourth location on the east side of Kansas City.


Photograph by CSP Staff

In the education session, Rubenstein said it was the company’s signage, which reads “Home of the Great American Road Trip” that was the main driver of the brands image.  “It was kind of a center base for everything else,” he told the attendees.

When it comes to finding a mascot Rubenstein told the audience its best to let that happen naturally.

“I think there is a strong inclination to create a mascot and build the brand but one of our design guys really pushed back on this mindsight,” Rubenstein said. Wally’s furry mascots are a collection of characters that recall Hannah-Barbarea’s animation. “We learned we needed to be authentic to what we're trying to do and don't force a mascot.”

Damon Bail with Valor Oil provided a timeline of the now viral Hop Shops disco bathrooms.

Valor Oil is a distributor of petroleum products in Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The Owensboro, Kentucky-based company also operates 10 Hop Shops in northern Kentucky

Bail told the audience he came up with the idea of a disco bathroom in 2022 when trying to make the company’s convenience stores a destination. The disco bathroom includes Hop Shops frog mascot with the words “Do Not Push the Red Button,” prompting customers to press the button, where “the lights go down, the music starts, the colorful spotlights come on and a disco ball starts spinning,” the company said.

“When you come to our store, we just want you to have a good time and have a great experience,” Bail said in the session, relaying the importance of being true to your brand.

Since the opening of the disco bathroom and the hosting of a disco bathroom wedding, various late night talk shows help pick up the momentum for its marketing efforts Bail said. All at no cost, which he said is a bonus.

“We have spent no advertising.” Instead, “we've been blessed enough to have it happen organically.”  

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