Scott Zaremba is the thinking man’s retailer, a restless soul always looking for some way to improve on the status quo.
“I’m the moth drawn to the light,” he says. “I want something that challenges me but can improve what’s going on in my store. How can I make things a little better?”
Zaremba, president of Zarco USA, owns and operates two convenience stores and a proprietary quick-service sandwich restaurant called Sandbar Subs. As a sideline, he’s rehabbing the oldest operating cinema in the world—yes, in Kansas.
Q: What are some of the projects you’re most proud of?
A: We were one of the first retailers to offer E15 [gasoline]. To sell E15, you have to blend it at the pump, and at the time, the technology to do that didn’t exist. So we worked with Wayne to develop our own valve to do the blending.
I also created the Siris Tablet. This is a touchscreen tablet that’s attached to the gas pump, where customers can place orders and then go into the store to pick up the order. It gained UL certification in the past year, and we’re in the process of pushing that out to other retailers.
Q: What’s next?
A: I’ve got the contract for concessions for the city of Lawrence, and I’m turning the concession stands into mini convenience stores. And rather than have an employee or two manning a concession stand at the sports pavilion, we’ve developed an unattended experience where customers can ring themselves out. It’s got a commercial Keurig machine in there, where customers can brew their own coffee and other convenience products. It’s been about 75 days, and we’re always making changes, but it’s been a good experiment to see how consumers will accept it.
Q: What lessons have you learned over the years?
A: There are a whole lot of people that will tell you, “You can’t do that.” There are a whole lot fewer that say, “Yeah, that’s not a problem.”