“When our first store opened, it was one of the only retail outlets in Green Valley,” said David Crawford, director of operations of GVG. “Over the years, the community developed into a relatively commercial area, but that wasn’t always the case.”
Although most people find it difficult to believe, in the ’70s, Las Vegas was just a small city in the middle of the desert with a metropolitan population of approximately 300,000. In the suburb of Henderson, the neighborhood the first GVG store called home consisted of a mere 150 homes.
But it wasn’t long before the Las Vegas Valley community began to grow rapidly, and GVG followed suit. With a staff of 250 employees and annual revenue of $100 million, the company continues to grow and expand.
The chain of stores is just one of the three Nevada-based businesses the Crawford family owns and operates. Operations of the two other companies—Crawford Oil and Crawford Coin—are closely intertwined with the running of GVG. In conjunction with Crawford Oil, 35 of the 39 GVG convenience stores are home to a Shell gas station, and all 39 locations include a gaming area, courtesy of Crawford Coin.
Founder Richard Crawford, president, serves as the operational head of all three companies, and his son, Ed, is the general manager of Crawford Oil. David, Ed’s brother, controls GVG’s daily operations.
A brand new look
Last year, the team at GVG began a major renovation project that calls for remodeling each location, one at a time. “The industry has changed over the past three decades,” David said. “We want to present a new image that is consistent throughout all of our locations.”
But the renovation project doesn’t revolve solely around the company’s image; the team at GVG is also interested in developing stores that are more cost-efficient. “We want to build an environment that will last longer, look better, and use less energy,” David said. “This will result in a more pleasant experience for our customers and employees, and it will save us money while helping the environment.”
David and his team hired Paragon Solutions, a retail design and consulting firm, to create a prototype, which called for a new lighting scheme, among other things. At its new locations, the lights under the canopy of the gas station are strictly LED, and instead of illuminating the entire area, each pump is spotlighted.
Large props, such as palm trees, are strategically placed along the perimeter, to block the amount of sunlight that hits the building, which decreases the company’s air conditioning costs.
Sunroofs and glass doors allow natural light to preside over artificial light, during the day. Inside the store, light fixtures are set up to highlight certain areas, while downplaying others. “If you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing,” said Mike Lawshe, president and CEO of Paragon Solutions, in an interview with NACS Online.
For example, a bright light scheme is used near the cash register area, and a dark scheme is used in the gaming area. Although the gaming area, which consists of a row of seven slot machines, is dimly lit, the contrasting scheme makes it pop.
But lighting wasn’t the only topic of concern when the new GVG prototype was drawn up. The new locations have the ability to recycle the water from their carwash centers, which they use to cultivate the landscape, via a reclaim tank. With the system, more than 90% of the water from the carwash center will be reused.
The first GVG store to follow this prototype was completed in January, and the team is already at work on its second. “It’s too soon to tell how the new design will affect sales,” David said. “But it looks great, and we’re confident that it’ll do well.”
The year ahead
Looking to the year ahead, David and the team at GVG plan to keep growing, despite a tough economy and a recent change in the law concerning smoking at gas stations. David said the latter is more likely to impact business.
“Pretty recently, they made it illegal for anyone to smoke cigarettes at a gas station in Nevada,” David said. “We have slot machines at all our locations, and the majority of those customers like to smoke while they play. Our gaming business took a hit, but we’re confident it will recover.”
In terms of the economy, the team at GVG is pursuing an aggressive approach that involves renovating existing stores and building new ones.
“Because the economy is at a weak point, a lot of stores in the area are closing, and we have taken advantage of that by acquiring a few of them,” David said. “If more opportunities arise, we’ll consider them.
“For our company, acquisitions are often easier than building start up locations,” he continued. “If the store’s previous owner did a good job, we come out of the deal with a building, clientele, and employees.”
Although GVG continues to grow, it’s not immune to financial setbacks. According to David, when gas prices rose to $4 a gallon, he noticed a definite shift in customer buying patterns within the convenience store, from premium to budget products.
“There was a downshift in buying patterns, but our sales remained flat, so we aren’t overly concerned,” David said. “It’s difficult to pinpoint which factors are most affected by the economy. We feel fortunate to be moving forward.”