At Coen Oil, we firmly believe that Darwinism is as relevant of a factor in business as it is in the natural world. And yet with already 150,000 c-stores in the United States, we’re about to launch a branding campaign to convert our chain to Ruff Creek Markets. Why?
We know that any new product, store or change to an existing brand must be compelling to consumers. To stay relevant in their minds, we challenged ourselves to explore all aspects of our business—IT, procurement, operations, finance and marketing—to find ways to get better. And we continue to tinker with our prototype format. Since 2012, we’ve doubled in size and grown to nearly 40 stores, with more in the pipeline.
Accordingly, we’re preparing to expand the Ruff Creek Markets brand as our single go-to-market nameplate. The Ruff Creek brand is authentic, an integral part of the tristate communities it has served since 1923, and the name on the oldest general store in southwestern Pennsylvania. The massive undertaking includes exterior branding and communications, as well as interior remodeling. On deck are several ground-ups and other remodels.
Ruff Creek’s current model is 4,500 to 5,000 square feet, including foodservice, a drive-thru and multiple fuel islands (and often a diesel island). The recently remodeled Weirton, W.Va., location is an example of the layout, tone, materials and footprint of the latest version of the prototype.
In keeping with the image and positioning of the Ruff Creek brand, the store’s exterior uses HardiPlank clapboard painted red to match the logo emblem, barn lights to highlight the logo, corrugated aluminum for the window awnings and stacked stone around the base of the building and pillars. Together, these materials evoke the rural, agrarian elements of the region’s history and culture.
Prepare for Landing
Inside the store, customers are greeted with a welcoming “landing zone,” which offers a sightline to the hot prepared-foods offering at the back, angled aisles with clear visibility, a 360-degree stacked refrigerated offering of fresh sandwiches and other items, and a bank of cooler doors surrounded by reclaimed wood lit by gooseneck barn lights.
The floors were resurfaced with knotty silver cedar vinyl planks. The checkout makes use of stacked stone with aluminum pendulum lights over the registers. An eatery alcove is surrounded by windows through which arriving guests can see a red clapboard brand wall explaining the company’s history, menu, brand, etc., on dual rotating LED screens.
The coffee bar emphasizes the Ruff Creek Coffee offering. Our coffee further reinforces our public consciousness, something especially important with millennials, by featuring product with 100% Arabica and select Rainforest Alliance beans, and blends and roasts specially selected by Ruff Creek Markets for its guests. The wall behind the coffee urns displays a sepia-colored mural of a covered bridge. This is an actual bridge frequently used and located in Ruff Creek, Pa., reflecting the roots of the company.
Our menu has four key “hero” offerings: crispy chicken, jojos, breakfast and coffee. What’s a jojo? It’s an Idaho potato, cut in store, hand-breaded with a proprietary Ruff Creek recipe and cooked in trans-fat-free oil. The crispy chicken uses a special Ruff Creek recipe; our guests call the chicken “famous” for its taste and moistness. Other hot menu and snack items support the heroes, all of which make Ruff Creek Market’s menu stand out from competitive c-store offerings in our market that center on cold sandwiches.
Our Values in Play
Another customer driver is our cold bar, which features a 20-head fountain with a choice of chewy or cubed iced, frozen drinks and a f’real milkshake bar. LED ceiling lights make for a bright surrounding, music plays inside and on the forecourt, and focused planning has gone into touch-free-fixture restrooms with distinctive tiles that are in keeping with the Ruff Creek brand image.
We believe there is a link between restrooms and our foodservice offering: How can we expect guests to trust that our food is fresh and of the highest quality if we can’t provide clean, functional, modern restrooms?
Coen Oil operates with these three core values: quality, local and giving. Our food and Ruff Creek offering is of the highest quality and has a compelling value proposition. We have been serving guests since 1923 and we use our local heritage and culture to connect with our guests, whether they are from our market area or traveling through. And we support our communities by giving, as we have always done. These values are not millennial, Gen X or baby boomer; they are universal, and they apply to all of our guests.
We are excited about our future, about continually evolving and enhancing the brand experience. Look for a follow-up on Ruff Creek Markets’ activity as the store rollouts continue.
A) The multiple-tier 360-degree open-air cooler is visible to guests immediately as they walk into the store. B) Grab-and-go items on the cooler include freshly made sandwiches, salads and wraps, along with treats such as yogurt parfaits. C) Promotional items on top of the cooler include travel mugs and baseball caps, both of which sport the Ruff Creek logo. D) Items that pair well with products on the cooler, such as chips and other snacks, are located in adjacent gondolas.