Is 'Convenience Store' a Dirty Word?

Developers of new retail concept prefer to call the Cube a "neighborhood concierge"

The Cube neighborhood concierge (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores)

NORMAN, Okla. -- The Cube, a new drive-thru retail concept opening in Norman, Okla., aims to be a "more convenient convenience store," according to company co-founder Jake Sharp. But in a move that won't win him any friends in a rapidly evolving convenience store industry that is becoming increasingly upscale, he said he doesn't want to call it a convenience store.

"Convenience store seems like such a dirty word these day," Sharp told The Oklahoman. "'Neighborhood concierge' is the best thing we could come up with."

The new conven … "neighborhood concierge" will offer customers lattes and cappuccinos, as well as fresh food items such as pastries, sandwiches and wraps. Freshly baked pizza also will be on the menu, as well as health and beauty and grocery items. Customers will be able to order items from their smart phones using a mobile app, and have those items waiting to pick up when they arrive.

The first Cube store is under construction in Norman on the site of a former tobacco shop, said the report, with a targeted opening date in October.

Sharp, who owns two drive-thru tobacco shops in Lawton, Okla., said he saw demand for a store that targeted customers who don't want to get out of their cars to grab a gallon of milk or diapers.

He has partnered with Joe Lawrence, a recently retired Navy pharmacist who now serves as Cube CEO, and contractor Steve Rich to develop the Cube concept.

"The idea behind the Cube is that we are going to put up nice, new, good-looking structures that are drive-thru only and carry items catering to the communities they are in," Lawrence told the newspaper. "We started talking about what is really convenient about a convenience store, and there are a lot of things that aren't very convenient."

The Cube prototype under construction in Norman looks more like a trendy restaurant or cafe than a convenience store, the report said. The modern architecture style was chosen to get away from the look and feel of a convenience store, Lawrence said. "We took steps to brand ourselves differently than a convenience store, but you will have a similar selection of convenience store items--health and beauty items, snacks, sodas, beer, ice, tobacco products."

The owners hope to expand the business to multiple locations across the metro area after fine-tuning the concept with the Norman location, Lawrence said. "Norman is our test store."

Click here to read The Oklahoma report.