CSP Magazine

Grand Opening: VERC's Mayflower Food & Spirits

How the recent acquisition of a Plymouth, Mass., c-store mainstay brings the chain into the foodservice game

Earlier this year, Duxbury, Mass.-based VERC Enterprises acquired Mayflower Food & Spirits, a gas station and foodservice hybrid based near the famous Plymouth Harbor in Plymouth, Mass. Along with VERC CEO Leo Vercollone, this installment of Grand Opening offers an exclusive tour of VERC’s acquisition and remodeling plans for the 30-year-old site.

Q: Can you share the history of VERC Enterprises?

A: VERC Enterprises is a family-owned, 40-year-old retail, convenience store/gasoline and car-wash group. We operate 26 convenience stores and two stand-alone car washes in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. I joined the family business in 1980 when I partnered with my father, Eugene, and brother Paul.

While much has changed since we opened our first VERC location, what hasn’t changed is the company’s belief that excellent service comes first. Fully stocked, clean, aesthetically pleasing facilities offer a complete line of convenience and snack items and competitively priced gasoline (Gulf and Mobil), and most include Dunkin’ Donuts.

Our customers are greeted with fast and friendly service. Whether you are a one-time visitor or a “regular,” you will be impressed with the way you are treated. We also work closely with the communities we serve and are involved in a number of local causes, including a program that provides funds to local schools for programs that benefit students.

Q: You recently acquired Mayflower Food & Spirits. How did you come across the store as a potential acquisition?

A: First, it’s location, location, location! Plymouth is a great community. And the Mayflower is conveniently located near an interchange to Route 3, the north/south highway between Boston and Cape Cod. We already have one location in Plymouth, a few miles away, and we like the community.

Mayflower Food & Spirits is a place that everyone has seen hundreds of times. We had driven by it many times and it always looked busy. We saw it as an interesting location, something somewhat different from our other locations. And it has a great reputation, a place that the locals have frequented for decades.

Although the name of the store has been Mayflower Food & Spirits for a long time, some of the locals still refer to it as Skippy’s. It was originally a gas station, dating back 40 years, and the former owner was Charles “Skip” Carafoli and his father. After about 12 years, the Carafolis expanded the site from a gas station to a superette. The expanded model included six aisles of groceries, a full deli counter, an in-house butcher and baker—and of course, wine, beer and liquor. There are still repair bays out back.

Q: What differentiates this store’s deli from others in the industry?

A: This is a full-service deli, with prepared food, including meals to go. Offerings include shepherd’s pie, steak, pork chops, vegetables and more. Half of total inside sales come from prepared food.

Our hope is to adapt this model to some of our other locations. What makes this different for us is dealing with a made-fresh concept. We have always had foodservice but not fresh food. It’s new territory, and we’re looking forward to expanding our model with this new location.

Q: VERC has built a culture of strong community service. Tell us about it, and how Mayflower fits within it.

A: The best word to describe the company’s culture is inclusive. Twenty percent of our workforce is made up of adults who are intellectually or developmentally challenged. Another word we use to describe the workforce is engaged.

As for Mayflower, there are roughly 30 employees, and we’re keeping all of them. Many of them are familiar faces in the community—the chef has been there 13 years, the butcher 20, the produce manager 18 and the grocery manager 10. Mayflower Food & Spirits is a place where local customers have gone for years, and there is a great relationship between the store associates and the customers.

Q: Is VERC planning a remodel? If so, what are some of the changes planned?

A: Yes, we plan to invest $400,000 to $500,000 to upgrade the store. We like the overall size of the location, about 6,500 square feet of retail space, including a full basement for preparation and storage, a full-service fuel island and what is now our first location with a full liquor license. That said, the equipment is older—refrigerators, coolers, freezers, shelving, even the cashier transaction equipment. We’re going to upgrade it all with new equipment. We will close the store in order to remodel it.

It’s safe to say this store is not like any of our other stores. For that matter, it’s not like 95% of what’s in our industry.

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