Paul Allen, founder and general manager of the Farm 2 Counter convenience store in Springfield, Mo., is not a typical c-store operator. He’s not really a c-store operator at all. He’s a yacht chef on dry land.
When he was studying at the Culinary Institute of America, Allen saw a help-wanted ad that said, “Do you want to make a lot of money, travel the world and cook for the rich and famous?” His answer: “Yes, yes and yes.” So for the next 12 years, he planned and served up gourmet meals on a yacht.
“Now I’m implementing my yachting experience in a convenience store,” he says. For example, as a yacht chef, he would shop in the Cayman Islands, on Saint Martin or whatever exotic island they were visiting. “I learned how to get fresh fish, vegetables and food and to see what’s in season,” he says.
The store also has committed to selling no products that contain high fructose corn syrup, which is the biggest challenge in running a c-store. But Allen has made it work.
“We have the only organic soda fountain in the whole state of Missouri, by Tractor Soda,” he says.
The Farm 2 Counter concept started out as a delivery service. The 2,400-square-foot c-store came later. “My wife is a millennial,” Allen says. “I thought: Why don’t I make a convenience station for millennials?”
As he opens new locations in new states, Allen plans to keep a local focus. For example, the Missouri store sells only Missouri beer and produce. Allen is looking at another site in Springfield and plans to move into Kansas City and Colorado next.
This c-store, free of high fructose corn syrup, keeps a local focus.
Photograph courtesy of Paul Allen