We learned a tremendous amount in developing our new store concept.
We learned about striking a balance between what our customers wanted and what we ourselves wanted out of a modern convenience store.
We learned that sticking to our core values—putting employee and customer needs first—for operating stations would get us further than any amount of architecture, design or money could get us.
We learned that the customer is still always right and that treating your employees well will always pay off.
Last but not least, we learned that building and opening a store in the middle of a brutal Chicago winter would teach us more about ourselves, our employees and our customers than any other experience in our family’s more than 60 years of operating gas stations.
With that said, welcome to Fillinup, located in Carol Stream, Ill., which we developed over the better part of a year. The store is meant to serve as a modern convenience market with the future in mind. It has clean lines, warm earth tones and a friendly atmosphere. It is housed within a 2,800-square-foot retrofitted and repurposed Shell conventional bay design with an original, freshly stained wood ceiling. It emphasizes a selection of goods and a depth of quality meant to please a wide range of demographics that we felt were underserved.
Attracting the Customer
What do you want out of a modern c-store? We’re always asking that question. One of the core objectives in building this store was to offer a diverse selection of healthy products without alienating the “bread and butter” convenience store customer. Our customers asked us for selection and the ability to choose how and what they wanted to eat that day.
We spent a lot of time curating products that we believed in and knew our customers would find interest in. It is possible to pick up your favorite Coca-Cola product and still find organic juice and tea options. The salty-snack selection is deep with healthy choices and unique brands. The foodservice offering includes only products we would be comfortable eating on a daily basis. The beer selection is well rounded and features several Midwest and Chicago breweries. The space also includes a 600-square-foot Dunkin’ Donuts drive- thru, which does well in capturing the desires of the community.
We specifically targeted millennials and focused our attention on the female demographic when we developed this store. Those were two pieces of the local puzzle that seemed to be underserved in the greater market. So far, we’ve seen good results, and new customers are finding our store daily.
Also, there are pieces of this store that cannot be found anywhere else nearby. In the often-fragmented Western suburbs of Chicago, it is at times difficult to connect with other members of the community. We included a corkboard wall in the store for posting events, local ads and other community notes.
Along with eight traditional fuel pumps, the store offers a Chargepoint EV charging station that so far is exclusive to the area. While we do not offer diesel, we are considering it for the future.
The bathrooms are sleek with natural-colored tiling, Xlerator hand dryers and a tight cleaning schedule. Bright LED lighting on the inside and outside of the store makes any customer feel at home, day or night.
Looking to the Future
The Fillinup concept is still evolving every day. The brand has been a proven success initially and the possibilities for future branding opportunities are endless. We now understand the need to develop a store model that is easy to replicate while simultaneously meeting specific local needs. The customer offering changes every week and our foodservice layout is constantly evolving. We are also looking to become more efficient at producing consistent marketing materials and executing promotions on a broad scale.
We do plan to open more sites and are constantly on the lookout for the right location. We have also strongly entertained the idea of doing a stand-alone city site without fuel. We’re even considering putting together franchise opportunities for other Shell and non-Shell sites in need of a strong brand.
We’ve learned a lot. We haven’t forgotten that the more we’ve changed this site with a brand new build-out, the more we’ve come to appreciate our employees, our customers and the commitment to our core values that got us this far in the first place. We will continue to evolve and innovate as the industry moves forward and opportunities present themselves. Fillinup has added value to this community and to the customers it serves in a short period of time, and that means the world to us. With hard work ahead, the future is bright for the Fillinup brand.