For more than 80 years, we at NOCO have been committed to raising the bar at home, at work and on the go. In recent years, as part of our evolution from a traditional gas bar to a full-service c-store providing more of the fresh grab-and-go products people look for, we have undertaken full rebuilds, averaging two or three locations annually.
In truth, our network of 37 stores has long included legacy, smaller formats. Last year, we looked at our NOCO Express store in Grand Island, N.Y. Located at one of the community’s busiest intersections, our 950-square-foot store had been in operation since the mid-1980s and was no longer reflective of the NOCO brand.
Although inside sales were still doing great and our customers were very loyal, we were challenged for space. We wanted to offer customers expanded fuel choices and more fresh offerings. Other stores nearby had also recently remodeled their facilities, creating an updated competitive landscape. It was time to ramp up our total offer.
The brand new, 4,000-square-foot store was constructed right behind the current store. This enabled us to close for only 24 hours during the entire three-month construction period. Once the new store opened, the old one was demolished, giving way to an expanded fueling area featuring 10 fueling stations, with diesel and E85 available to accommodate the local municipality truck fleet and boat owners.
We gave the Grand Island community the latest evolution of NOCO’s store model: an overall cleaner, brighter look with a focus on fresh grab-and-go foods and expanded product selection. It has become more than just a place to fill up one’s tank or grab a candy bar.
As soon as you walk into this store, which is open 24 hours daily, you are greeted by a vast checkout counter, which is new to our store model and enhances overall customer service. Our older stores feature a much smaller counter, located to the side of the entrance.
Directly in front of the counter is our large center-store cooler, which features freshly prepared and prepackaged sandwiches, salads and wraps from Nickel City Foods, our commissary business. We continue to introduce Nickel City Foods into all of our stores, challenging ourselves to offer top-quality grab-and-go products. Each month we introduce a specialty sandwich, which have included the Signature Triple Decker stacked high with turkey, ham and Swiss cheese on rye bread and topped with Russian dressing and crunchy homemade slaw; and the Sonoma Chicken Salad on Grilled Flatbread, featuring freshly chopped chicken breast, pecans, celery and cranberries with poppy-seed mayonnaise dressing. We also offer snack packs featuring fruits, vegetables and cheese, hummus and crackers, and yogurt parfaits.
This fresher approach also carried over to the grocery area, where customers can choose from a variety of fresh fruit, granola and energy bars, along with other healthier options that we’ve only just started offering within our stores. Traditional convenience items—candy, chips and gum—are still available. Our target customers continue to remain young families and those in the 18-to-45 age demographic, but with this new combination of products we are now able to cater to a wider range of customers and create opportunities to grow revenue at this location.
On the beverage front, customers can find more of their favorites with expanded cooler space and the addition of a beer cave. We partnered with World Cup coffee, available exclusively at our stores, to expand the variety of flavors, espressos and cappuccinos found at the oversized coffee bar. The store also features free Wi-Fi and indoor and outdoor seating.
Because this community already had many of our other “store within a store” franchises such as Subway, Tim Horton’s and Mighty Taco, we wanted to address the quick-service offering that the area might need.
The result was the addition of our first ever U-Swirl Frozen Yogurt and the first frozen yogurt shop in Grand Island. We didn’t just introduce a convenience store model; we introduced a full-service location, featuring up to 20 fat-free flavors and more than 60 toppings. Customers serve themselves and pay per ounce.
Even during the harsh winter season, U-Swirl was busy with families and teens enjoying this sweet new addition.
Our new Grand Island store includes not only features that have proven to be successful in our other Express locations, but also best practices from great convenience stores across the country that we have brought back to western New York and “NOCO-ized.” We’ve also looked internally at the process systems of our partner franchises, such as Tim Horton’s and Subway, for inspiration. It’s an evolution of our convenience store model that is showing no signs of slowing down
Inside the store, Customers are greeted by associates from NOCO’s new larger checkout counter, which enhances overall customer service. Also, NOCO offers customers healthier options such as granola and energy bars for on-the-go snacks. And a light-harvesting system featuring 16 skylights allows natural light into the store. Fixtures dim during peak daylight hours on an as-needed basis.
A monthly special can include a Signature Triple Decker sandwich stacked high with turkey, ham and Swiss cheese on rye bread and topped with Russian dressing and crunchy homemade slaw, or a Sonoma Chicken salad on Grilled Flatbread, featuring freshly chopped chicken breast, pecans, celery and cranberries with poppy-seed mayonnaise dressing.