Brandi Companies includes many longtime employees with new recruits continually added for growth.
The company is active in the charitable world sponsoring school programs and health care associations and supporting local youth activities. It has donated more than $1 million to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and also raises funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Burn Foundation, American Cancer Society and American Diabetes Association.
“We are giving back to the community here in Columbia, S.C.,” Brandi explains. “The majority of our business is local and we believe in giving back. The people working in the stores are behind it 100 percent and the residents in the community support it by donating. We have collected a lot of funds to contribute.”
The company also supports local law enforcement charities and campaigns. “We believe local law enforcement contributes to the success of business by protecting the community,” says Janice Stuerke, vice president of operations. “Donating to law enforcement helps us protect the community.”
The Right Brands
In 2009-2010, Brandi Companies sold 12 smaller stores. It is now developing more co-brand stores with several businesses in one store. For example, there might be a Pitt Stop that includes a Burger King restaurant as well as a Subway sandwich eatery all under one roof. Brandi Companies is also working with Blimpies and Chester’s Fried Chicken.
Pitt Stop stores are located in two counties in the Columbia market. “It is a pretty tough market,” Brandi says. “There are a lot of majors operating here. But we still believe in supporting the community because the community supports us.”
Brandi Companies is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The company was founded in 1974 by Brandi, a former mechanic who opened a Texaco gas station. “As times changed from full service gas stations to self-serve convenience stores we also changed with the times,” he explains.
Although it was trying at times, Brandi says growing the business has been exciting. “This company has an awful lot of good people in it,” he adds. The company continues to grow as more stores are slated for future openings. Brandi succeeds with good cooperation and loyalty to vendors and excellent employees.
Like its peers, Brandi Companies faces business challenges including declining margins, competition, staffing, rising expenses and insurance costs.
The company’s competitors include retailers such as Walgreens, CVS and Dollar General who sell the same merchandise. To stay competitive on pricing, the company buys in bulk. The company also outcompetes rivals by offering better customer service, which it does through robust training. Training also helps its bottom line by reducing its insurance expenses through loss control.
“We monitor locations very closely,” Brandi says. “With our ongoing training program, we can prevent problems and cut expenses.
“The way I look at it, we have to be very efficient and eliminate waste,” he adds. “We are also very careful about scheduling labor control and theft control.”
In addition to cutting costs, Brandi Companies is also improving efficiency. The company’s efforts along these lines earned it recognition as the 2012 South Carolina Convenience Store of the Year by the South Carolina Association of Convenience Stores.
The company also is working with the South Carolina Electric and Gas and adding new energy efficient LED lighting both inside and outside stores. This has cut power bills as much as 50 percent in some cases.
“We have already done 10 stores,” Brandi explains. “Over the next few years, we will be upgrading more as the budget allows.” For some stores, lighting has been improved outside and for others inside. At some Pitt Stops, both interior and exterior lighting have been overhauled. High quality lighting is helpful in a retail environment as it promotes feelings of safety for shoppers. Much of the company’s power costs, however, are attributed to exterior lighting. “Drive lights and canopy lights use a lot of wattage,” Brandi says. “It has been a good investment.”
With its outstanding employees, management and business procedures, Brandi Companies is poised for even more success in the coming years. “We see an excellent future in the years ahead,” Brandi says.