“Each store is individually owned and operated, and our owners take great pride in running their business and get a lot of support from the central office,” Chris Gilchrist says. “I am grateful to Jerry Zubert for giving us the opportunity to acquire the company and thank the company for the time and effort put into helping facilitate that transaction.”
The Gilchrist family’s experience in retail and distribution is helping it overcome many of the challenges inherent in running a convenience store chain, including strong competition and business permitting issues.
“With our having so many years of experience in the business, we know the ins and outs, and can work with distributors to get low pricing based on volume, which allows us to give our customers special deals,” Gilchrist adds.
Since purchasing Convenient Food Marts, Gilchrist – who serves as the company’s president – has devoted his energies to seeking new opportunities and locations. “We are in the field every day looking for new sites and overseeing existing locations,” he says. “If someone needs our assistance we are there to help, but we don’t micromanage and don’t stick our nose into parts of the business we don’t need to be involved in.”
Gilchrist credits the experience and loyalty of Convenient’s employees for the company’s success. “We are grateful for the excellent associates we have who routinely above and beyond to help us to run the company,” he says.
At the Market
The company in March opened City Market and Café, a 7,500-square-foot store in downtown Scranton, Penn., adjacent to the University of Scranton. The store is unique among the company’s stores because it has no parking, but instead accommodates walk-up traffic from students and local residents.
City Market and Café is located on a former restaurant and bar property, a portion of which was preserved and is now used as a small bar and seating area. Carryout or eat-in food options include specialty sandwiches, pizza and chicken. The store also offers a large selection of Hershey’s brand ice cream. A 350-square-foot portion of the building will also soon be leased to Dunkin’ Donuts.
“This store is more like a downtown market or a bodega than a convenience store,” Gilchrist says. “It’s been very well-received by people in the city as well as university staff and students, who are very happy to have us around because there’s nothing else like it in the area.”
Convenient Food Mart’s other locations also benefit from locations in highly visible parts of northeast Pennsylvania.
“The one thing everyone always says is most important in this business is location, location, location,” Gilchrist says. “We are fortunate to have some of the best locations in the region, and our franchisees make their stores hospitable by providing clean, well-laid out locations.”
Convenient locations sell Valero and Sunoco gasoline and carry products including Boar’s Head deli meats. Recent service upgrades include adding Hershey’s ice cream stands, milkshake and smoothie machines and Coke Freestyle machines. Beer, already a staple in some locations, is being rolled out companywide, Gilchrist notes.