Most c-store operators start out on the local level, with one or two stations often inherited from the previous generation. But Jennifer Pomerantz, an investment manager, entered from the top down, immersed in the “global energy value chain.”
She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago, where she wrote her thesis on the economics of oil pricing. She worked as an investment banker for Bank of America; founded and managed the global natural resources strategy for JP Morgan-Highbridge; and managed an energy and infrastructure fund at Surveyor Capital, a subsidiary of Citadel LLC. The experience gave her a total view of the petroleum industry, from upstream oil and gas to downstream fuels distribution and retailing.
In 2011, Pomerantz went way downstream. She founded New York-based Cleopatra Resources LLC to develop and launch the American Natural convenience and fuel brand, and she now leads a chain of 13 c-stores based in Pennsylvania and Ohio, which includes two American Natural Energy Centre locations and 11 sites with traditional gasoline-branded c-stores. The company is planning five more American Natural locations for 2018. Despite its name, American Natural is globally inspired. Pomerantz visited c-stores around the world and saw a gap in expectations between U.S. and international consumers. “There are greater differentiating factors in the offering globally that we thought could really add value to the U.S. customer experience, which has been proving out,” she says.
She was frustrated by a lack of higher-quality fresh offerings, so she developed American Natural as “an aggregation of experiences that meet the three core needs of taste, quality and price,” she says.The brand’s American Eatery fast-casual concept at the two American Natural Energy Centre stores offers a menu of handcrafted sandwiches, salads and pizza geared toward the customer seeking health and wellness options. The idea is to take “the cafe and bistro-style approach within a convenience environment,” she says. The center store, called The Marketplace, “carries the same categories of snacks that most convenience stores carry, except we integrate a wider selection of premium brands, snacks and merchandise,” Pomerantz says, comparing the types of products in her store to those found in Whole Foods.
Pair Pomerantz’s pedigree with her clear vision for the retail experience, and the industry has a strong new player poised to change the c-store landscape.
5—Amount of new American Natural c-stores coming in 2018