CSP Magazine

Grand Opening: Kim's Combo Deal

5 questions about a new hybrid convenience store

Kim Cole grew up with a love for retailing—both sides of the aisle: His grandfather operated a store, and his father worked for Nabisco. So despite quite different career goals, after spending a few years managing a c-store, he decided he wanted his own. In 1985, Cole opened his own c-store, Kim’s Convenience Store, and now operates more than two dozen sites across eastern Texas. Last June, Cole had the opportunity to fill more than a c-store space in one Texas town. The result is a 10,000-square-foot gem in Frankston that delivers on multiple consumer needs.

Q: How did you and your family get into the convenience business? How have you grown the company in the past 30 years?

A: I was going to college to be an architect. I got married in July 1971 and promised my wife I would finish college. In August, I took a job managing a local convenience store. After I worked there for five years, I decided I wanted to own my own store. I bought a restaurant in 1976 and operated it for nine years. I had purchased the lot next to the restaurant to build a new restaurant, but instead I decided to get back to what I really had set out to do. So I built my first convenience store in 1985. Interestingly, the second store that I acquired was the one I managed in the early 1970s.

By the time we opened our third store in 1993, my wife had quit her job in accounting for a local company and came to manage our office. In 1998, our daughter graduated college and came to work for us. We accumulated several stores over the next 15 years, making a total of eight. My son graduated from college in 2007 and also came to work with us. In 2009, we purchased a fuel distribution company and have added 18 stores since, giving us 26 in total.

Q: There’s an interesting back story to your newest location, one that involves a local grocery and a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. What happened, and how did that  influence your decision to open in Frankston?

A: Originally, we were going to use our resources elsewhere. But while we were working on those plans, Wal-Mart decided to close its Neighborhood Market in Frankston, leaving the town without a grocery store. We had purchased an existing grocery store in Frankston that had been closed, with the idea of remodeling and turning it into a grocery store/convenience store/restaurant. So we thought it would be best to shift our focus instead to Frankston.

We partnered with Paragon Solutions (Fort Worth, Texas) and have been working with Mike Lawshe, Jason McDonald and their team, and our contractor Burt Ford. In the end, we were able to get the store up and going rather quickly.

Q: Tell us about the physical details of the store. How does it differ from your other locations?

A: The store in Frankston is about 10,000 square feet. We have a full-service meat market, produce department and frozen foods, and an offering of basic grocery items. We also offer our BoxCar BBQ foodservice concept that we also have in other locations. We have a full breakfast offering, pizza, hamburgers, chicken-fried steaks and more. The gasoline is branded Shell, and we have eight fueling positions. The main difference between this store and our others is the meat market, produce and a larger offering of groceries.

I would call our store a hybrid. Having been in both the restaurant and c-store business, and having worked in grocery when I was a kid, it just seemed a good idea to combine all three. We want to offer customers convenience, but also a place where they can fill in without having to go to a big store for their groceries.

Q: What in-store features stand out to the customer?

A: From a design standpoint, I think the fountain area stands out. Jason and the design team at Paragon did a great job, and it was very cost-effective. The store flows fairly well, considering how tied our hands were to a certain extent because it was an existing store. We have two entrances: one taking you to the grocery portion of the store, and the other to the c-store section with food offerings.

Q: Will your new location be a prototype for future remodels and/or ground-ups?

A: We are working on plans for a new store like this in Elkhart. We should be breaking ground in early 2017. We are excited about the concept and are looking for other communities that may need a store like this.

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