How Businesses Can Be Local Champions


Personal connections, superior customer service and community focused offerings are just a few perks consumers get when shopping local. Among all the benefits locally owned businesses offer, one unique advantage rises to the top—a true understanding of the communities they serve. Local business owners know the ins and outs of the community and have the opportunity to serve them in a way they can truly appreciate. Incorporating quick-service restaurants, a hot food station, dining areas and inviting interior and exteriors are just a few ways local convenience stores can build and maintain the connections needed for lasting success.

That’s why Cenex®, the energy brand of CHS, created the LIFT initiative: a lighting, image and facilities transformation. The LIFT initiative was established to help Cenex convenience store owners best serve their communities through a series of customized interior and exterior upgrades. Most importantly, Cenex retailers who participate in the LIFT program are given the opportunity to renovate their stores how they see fit, providing them with all the resources and support they need to get the job done.

No matter the size or location of the store, any retailer can be a champion for its community. When considering a renovation, there are a few key elements retailers need to check off their list.

Cater to the community’s unique needs

Store owners who are engrained into the community are already an established local pillar. By actively engaging with the community, they hear its needs directly from the source. With the help of the LIFT program, these retailers can act on those needs in a way that is truly meaningful to their specific customers. So, whether that means installing LED lighting, offering better food options or remodeling the bathrooms, catering to the unique needs of neighbors is critical.

Knowing that there is no “one size fits all” approach to revamping Cenex locations across the footprint, LIFT gives each owner the flexibility to add whichever elements they feel will best benefit their customers.

Kelly Christianson, General Manager at Northern Resources Cooperative, knows this all too well. During the rebuild, Christianson kept his community top of mind and implemented features that enhanced the functionality, safety and the in-store customer experience. This included a store expansion, making the store more accessible to all community members. Other upgrades were comprised of reach-in and walk-in coolers, self-checkout stations and a self-serve craft soda station with products sourced from a Milwaukee-based brewery.

“Cenex gave us the freedom to incorporate all the elements we wanted, so we took that and ran with it.” said Christianson. “We felt comfortable going into the project knowing Cenex had our back. They were there every step of the way, making sure we had all the tools we needed for a successful rebuild.”

Not only does LIFT help retailers make the store improvements they need most, but it gives them the freedom to choose the upgrades that are perfectly suited for their store location.

Prioritize the customer experience

Throughout the renovation process, putting oneself in the customer’s shoes is one of the key steps to overall success. Thinking about how to provide the best possible customer experience is essential to obtaining consumer preference and loyalty among community members.

The LIFT program helps store owners to make the necessary updates to create a premier c-store for its community. Both interior and exterior enhancements need to be considered to create an ideal experience for customers and get them to drive the extra mile to stop at a specific store time and time again. For many, curb appeal is the main deciding factor when choosing where they should stop along their route. So, as part of the LIFT initiative, Cenex incorporated a new forecourt image for all locations, known as Halo. Knowing that the exterior of c-stores is a big driver for consumer preference, these Halo enhancements focus on forecourt and canopy upgrades to elevate the appearance of Cenex branded locations.

With the resources and support of CHS, retailers are equipped with the tools needed for a superior convenience store and an ideal customer experience. For instance, Southern Valley Travel Center in Wahpeton, N.D. retail manager, Wade Griffin, knew that his location was a popular stop for travelers and truck drivers, so curb appeal and ease of access was of utmost importance to draw in potential customers.

“The substantial increase in foot traffic reassured our confidence in Cenex and its LIFT initiative,” said Griffin. “Thanks to this program, we were able to become the successful business we are today.”

During the rebuild, the team decided to create enough space not just in the forecourt for travelers and truck drivers, but in the interior as well. The renovated store was made large enough for a Caribou coffee and gathering area, making Southern Valley Travel Center a community favorite.

Support neighboring businesses

Embracing other local businesses is a major way to truly become a local champion for a community. By bringing in local artists, vendors and contractors, retailers are not only providing opportunities for other small businesses but establishing valuable connections as well.

Northern Star Co-op and Synergy Cooperative are just two of the many Cenex locations that have already partnered with local organizations to help their dreams of the perfect c-store come to fruition. The crew at Northern Star Co-op in Grand Rapids, Minn., had no hesitations about partnering with local construction company Casper Construction. Because of the new-found relationship, Casper Construction and Northern Star Co-op’s retail manager, Sarah Bellefy, were able to keep in close contact throughout the entire building process to ensure things were moving along smoothly. As for Synergy Cooperative in Cumberland, Wis., the store owner took it upon himself to partner with four local food vendors to provide his customers with a variety meat, cheese, maple syrup and honey products in-store.

“We felt there was no better way to uplift our community than to work with as many local vendors as possible,” said Kyle Knutson, CEO of Synergy Cooperative. “Because our store is member-owned, we wanted to do what we could to support our community while providing our customers with a c-store that caters to their needs.”

Joining forces with neighboring businesses creates a mutually beneficial relationship that helps more than just businesses and whomever they choose to partner with. These business partnerships also promote a healthy local economy and contributes to a thriving community.

“We know that in rural America, community means everything and with the LIFT initiative, we hope to be a part of keeping those community connections alive," said Ahktar Hussain, Director of Refined Fuels Marketing at CHS. “As a trusted partner, it is our goal to help our retailers achieve the ideal c-store.”

By partnering with Cenex and its LIFT program, retailers are given the tools and resources they need to make a meaningful impact in their community. For more information or to join the Cenex family, visit cenex.com/lift

This post is sponsored by Cenex®


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