Renovations Driven by the Community

How one store ensured its customers could find what they need most.

When deciding where to stop for their next fill-up or for that last ingredient for dinner, oftentimes the place that’s most convenient comes out ahead for consumers. In a world of convenience, having a store that people love is the best way to create repeat customers.

For some, this may mean heading to the place where they can find the local foods they love. For others, it’s the stop where they can grab bait, a sandwich and a beverage to fuel up for their fishing trip.

The Cenex® branded River Country Co-op c-store in Merrill, Wis., strives to fulfill all these needs and more for its community.

“We’re the main store in town where many people get their gas and groceries,” said Bruce Mlsna, general manager and CEO of River Country Co-op. “Having the opportunity to make upgrades to our store and to our offerings through the Cenex LIFT initiative has allowed us to better meet the needs of our community.”

To ensure the plans would come to life, Mlsna worked closely with Cenex through the LIFT initiative, a lighting, image and facilities transformation designed to revamp Cenex-branded stores through a series of exterior and interior updates, along with optional no-interest loan funding for in-store improvements.

Drawing customers in

As with any brick-and-mortar business, an appealing exterior is a major reason why customers choose one location over another. This is especially true in the convenience store business, and aspects like lighting can have a big impact on a customer’s choice to stop in. The Cenex brand wanted to refresh its forecourt image and quickly realized store interiors needed to be updated as well. So, the LIFT initiative was born.

The Halo image includes improvements to the canopy, forecourt and main ID sign, including a 360-degree LED light band, new Cenex logo signs and three-dimensional backlit blue arches.

“The Halo image gives our location a really friendly feeling, and with all the new lighting it looks very nice and approachable after dark,” said Brad Podevels, vice president, retail east, of River Country Co-op.  

Cenex Store

Local convenience

Much like the exterior, the interior offerings and amenities needed to reflect the needs of the community. The River Country team heard customers were craving an easier option for fishing and hunting supplies, so the team was happy to oblige.

“We put a really nice bait shop in here as part of the in-store upgrades,” said Podevels. “It’s been a smart business decision because most people are picking up their minnows plus a sandwich or beverages.”

Cenex Bait & Tackle

Business impact

With any major renovation, considering the business impact is a key factor. For River Country Co-op, moving forward with the renovation through the LIFT initiative was a no-brainer.

“Doing a project through LIFT is an amazing way to build your business,” said Podevels. “It’s going to help you grow your business. It’s going to increase inside sales. It’s going to increase field sales. It’s going to draw people in.”

Since reopening, River Country has seen an increase in inside sales of about 30%. At the pump, they’re seeing a 15% increase in sales and estimate that will increase another 10-15% as summer hits and tourists begin driving through more frequently.

“We look forward to partnering with current and potentially future Cenex-branded c-stores throughout their renovations,” said Akhtar Hussain, director of refined fuels marketing at CHS. “An investment in the store is an investment in the community, and we’re excited to see how store owners continue to elevate their locations through LIFT.”

To learn more about the project and the LIFT initiative, visit cenex.com/lift

This post is sponsored by Cenex®