General Merchandise/HBC

How Convenience Store Renovation Can Leave a Lasting Legacy

Photographs courtesy of Cenex

Thirty-six years and counting—that’s how long Enerbase Cooperative CEO Tony Bernhardt has been in the c-store game. Suffice it to say he knows a thing or two about the importance of customer service.

Grabbing gasoline or a candy bar doesn’t scratch the surface when it comes to modern convenience store offerings. Consumer needs have shifted profoundly during Bernhardt’s tenure, with shoppers now seeking a greater sense of fulfilment, whether through product offerings, ease of shopping or interactions with employees. To keep pace with this evolution, Bernhardt was continually assessing the role that technology and other amenities might play in satisfying these needs.

cenex body image

Under Bernhardt, Enerbase operates several Cenex-branded c-stores in North Dakota. As CEO, Bernhardt’s duties often exceed the number of hours in a day. That’s where his partnership with CHS representatives Michele Smith, CHS direct brand specialist, and Pat Shea, CHS c-store retail specialist, helped bring the renovation to life through the LIFT initiative.

The Cenex brand’s new LIFT initiative provides retailers with the freedom and flexibility to renovate their stores how they see fit. Through the exterior portion of the program, Halo, the Cenex brand invests in the forecourt image of branded c-stores. While forecourt upgrades will happen at all locations, supporting the independence of each store is an important aspect of LIFT.

Over the years, Bernhardt and his team have seen it all, tackling c-store upgrades from new pumps to P.O.S. systems and everything in between. But they’d never undertaken a complete overhaul like they’d set their sights on for the Cenex-branded location in Minot, N.D. One of the factors that helped Bernhardt and his board sleep a little easier at night was knowing they could utilize the Cenex LIFT initiative’s 0% financing option for qualifying in-store upgrades.   

“Committing to a store remodel of this magnitude, going over budget is simply not an option,” said Bernhardt. “CHS helped ease the financial burden of the renovations and connected us with trustworthy vendors who helped us stay within budget and got the job done right.”

There was no shortage of new and industry-leading upgrades implemented by Bernhardt and his team. The remodel included a 2,500-square-foot addition, which allowed for a kitchen expansion, new coolers and freezers, an updated entryway, refreshed restrooms, upgraded countertops and cabinetry, new LED lighting throughout the store and more. The renovations Bernhardt implemented through the LIFT initiative have already helped the location see an uptick in sales, and he expects that trend to continue.

Most of Enerbase’s c-stores were built in the 1980s and 1990s. When considering how much else has changed in the past 30 to 40 years, making upgrades to enhance the technology and functionality of the space was key. The Minot location was no exception. Bernhardt worked with Smith and Shea to not only determine an increase in the square footage was necessary to make the layout of the store more functional, but to tap into partners offered through the LIFT initiative to add safety features throughout the store. 

“Tony made the bathrooms completely automated so customers don’t need to touch anything,” said Shea. “We also worked with him to determine that a self-checkout would be a great addition to this location. Based on what I’ve seen, I think these will be a trending feature for c-stores as folks are looking to get in and out faster than ever.”

Bernhardt didn’t stop the renovations at the interior. The Minot Enerbase is one of the Cenex-branded locations that has already undergone a Halo image upgrade. Bernhardt worked with Smith to extend the exterior upgrades, including an LED Enerbase sign that was added to the front of the building and a new reader board.

Throughout the renovation, Bernhardt always came back to the need to make sure his employees were excited about the transformation of the store. After all, if a major part of the customer experience lies with the employees, their excitement can rub off on customers.

To learn more about how renovation can change an entire store’s legacy and update the customer experience, and to learn more about the Cenex LIFT initiative, visit

This post is sponsored by Cenex®


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