Case Study: How This Local C-Store Caters to the Needs of its Community


Having a true sense of community can have a much greater impact in rural America than in other parts of the country. In Harwood, N.D., social interaction with neighbors and access to a multitude of food options are some of the most important factors of what makes their community great. According to Saylor Academy, a quarter of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, but it’s often difficult to find gathering spaces that foster a sense of community or a central location to get a variety of food items.

“We love serving our rural community in Harwood but know that our ability to provide necessities was limited,” said Kasey Swalef, Petro Serve USA Store Manager. “With the remodel, we really wanted to expand the store both in a physical aspect to provide a communal space for residents, and with our product selections.”

When it opened its doors in the late 1970s, the Harwood, N.D. based Petro Serve USA station started out as a relatively small store with limited offerings. Since its opening, the city of Harwood has transformed, with community members developing new needs that the existing Petro Serve USA couldn’t fulfill. Knowing it was time to make a change, Swalef and Petro Serve USA District Manager Angie Siewert decided to take on a full renovation with help from Cenex® and its LIFT initiative.

Through the lighting, image and facilities transformation known as LIFT, Swalef and Siewert were able to partner with Cenex to determine the best upgrades to positively impact Harwood.

Community and convenience

From basic food selections to a space for community members to gather amongst peers, the Harwood Cenex location is now a place for the community to have their daily coffee chats with friends or an opportunity to develop new relationships with fellow residents.

“Throughout our remodel, we were constantly putting ourselves in the shoes of our community members,” said Siewert. “Of our many upgrades, we made sure to implement an improved seating area for our regular customers who often enjoy using our station to meet and hang out with neighbors.”


With the closest grocery store being nearly 10 miles away, the Harwood community struggled with finding quality food choices nearby. Knowing that residents had to travel to Fargo to find a store with the adequate options, Petro Serve USA worked to ensure a wide variety of food choices were provided in-store. Options include new coolers with built-in LED lighting, an assortment of refrigerated products, a walk-around deli counter, and the Cafe USA, which offers fresh meals accompanied with its Hot Stuff line of personal-sized pizzas, cheese bread, croissant sandwiches and more.

“With the remodel, a main focus was expanding our food and beverage offerings for our customers,” said Swalef. “We wanted to provide a c-store where people can not only grab coffee, but also get everyday merchandise, preventing customers from being forced to travel to a grocery store outside of town.”

Additional interior upgrades include expanded bathrooms and new showers that were implemented to better accommodate truckers who happen to make a pitstop as they pass through the town.

A welcoming exterior

The LIFT initiative isn’t limited to interior updates. Exterior upgrades are also available for improved curb appeal. As a part of the Cenex LIFT initiative, all Cenex stores will receive an exterior image refresh called Halo.

The Halo image upgrades include enhancements to the canopy and forecourt, including a new logo sign, three-dimensional backlit blue arches and a 360-degree LED light band. With these improvements, the primary goal is to create a safe, well-lit atmosphere, friendly environment and an overall elevated c-store experience.

In addition to the Halo upgrades, exterior updates at Petro Serve USA included 12 new fuel tanks, a car wash and two large freeway signs that can be seen from miles away.

“We’ve noticed that the renovations, especially the exterior upgrades, have helped make us more favorable to the community,” said Swalef. “We’re confident that these updates will increase foot traffic and improve customer preference to our Cenex over other stations in the area.”


With Cenex locations being locally owned and operated, fostering community connection is extremely important, and at Petro Serve USA, that standard remains unchanged. Through the LIFT initiative, Harwood has been provided with the resources, opportunity and camaraderie to sustain the close-knit community that American rural towns need.

“Being able to take part in strengthening these communities is such an honor,” said CHS Director of Refined Fuels Marketing, Akhtar Hussain. “Through the LIFT initiative, we will continue to emphasize what being local truly means and how it’s unique in each Cenex community.”

To learn more about the Cenex LIFT initiative, visit

This post is sponsored by Cenex®


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