VERC ENTERPRISES AT A GLANCE
VERC Enterprises was launched 35 years ago by Paul Vercollone and his father Eugene in 1975 with a single gas station/car wash in Marshfield, Mass. Leo Vercollone, the company’s current president and CEO, joined the team after he graduated from Boston College in 1977. Paul continues to oversee the Briteway car wash business.
Locations: 21 convenience stores and four Briteway car washes in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
The past 12 months have been big for VERC Enterprises. The c-store and car wash chain opened its 21st c-store in August, revamped one of its car washes to meet a self-imposed goal of recycling 90% of its wash water and has been recognized with awards for including individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) as 15% of its staff.
But the chain isn’t about to rest on its laurels. Leo Vercollone, president and CEO of the Duxbury, Mass.-based chain, aims to increase his store count to 30, while bringing on more employees, allowing him to increase the number of individuals with IDD disorders to 20%.
Growing the Business
In August, VERC Enterprises opened its newest unit in Marlboro, Mass. It also operates four Briteway car washes, two of which are stand-alone locations, for a total of 23 sites in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The company includes foodservice franchises at several of its stores, including 15 Dunkin’ Donuts, one Subway and a Gunther Tooties bagel shop.
But VERC steers clear, at least for now, of offering a proprietary foodservice option. Where other chains look to foodservice to boost sales, VERC, which offers a number of high-volume sites directly off major thoroughfares, instead drives profits with its gasoline sales, community outreach and a prosperous tobacco category.
“We do a great job with OTP,” Vercollone said. “Our stores are recognized as a leading provider of OTP.”
This year, for example, the chain’s sales are up on OTP promotional items by 45-50%. “That’s on top of already strong numbers. Companywide I’m up 30% in the category overall for the year. And we’re not coming off low numbers. We have been promoting OTP for a while now,” Vercollone said.
The secret to VERC’s OTP success is its diligence and strategic planning. The company trains employees to be knowledgeable about the products, so they can introduce customers to new options. To motivate employees to do just that, VERC runs promotions where it compensates managers, district managers and the marketing department when sales goals are reached. This summer, the chain hosted an internal competition throughout its stores where managers competed to drive OTP sales in order to win prizes, such as iPods, gas grills, TVs and Blue Ray videos.
So far this year, VERC has conducted three in-house training programs for the category, where major OTP chains educate employees on everything from how the product is produced, to the new product lines and what type of customer is most likely to be attracted to the product. Armed with this information, employees drive sales.
“There’s a lot of growth opportunity in smokeless, and those people are mostly cigarette smokers who might want to try other products, and we are an educated source for them to learn the category,” Vercollone said.
Supporting the community is a core value for the management team at VERC Enterprises, which is one reason it so quickly embraced the IDD program.
“Originally, we thought it would be a charitable thing to do. As time went on we realized we had the ability to work with these individuals and help them succeed,” Vercollone said. The company aimed first for 10% of its workforce, which it achieved in four years and set out to hit 15% as the company grew.
It teamed with organizations such as Minuteman ARC, Plymouth ARC, Best Buddies, BAMSI, Eastern Middlesex ARC, Post Program of Duxbury and Road to Responsibility. They help VERC employ IDD individuals and to spread the word about the program.
Positions filled by the employees include stocking, landscaping, cleaning and assistance with bagging products from counter sales. Those hired range in age from 25-50 and typically live within a five-mile radius of the store they work in.
Currently, 17% of the company’s workforce is composed of IDD individuals, and as the chain moves toward its goal of operating 30 sites, Vercollone aims to up that number to 20%.
“The jobs are enthusiastically done, and everyone wins,” Vercollone said.
VERC has won awards for its efforts, including, most recently, a Community Employer of the Year Award from Minuteman ARC. “We are definitely recognized within the Massachusetts community in the IDD world as a leader of hiring the challenged. The stores we operate are seen as a strong community supporter,” Vercollone noted.
The chain reaches out to international causes as well. In response to the devastating floods in Pakistan this summer, it initiated a fundraising effort to assist those affected by the natural disaster. VERC employs 28 managers and associates originally from Pakistan, and while staff family members who presently live in Pakistan were not directly affected by the floods, the company felt it should support those who were, Vercollone noted. Through Sept. 9, the company set out donation canisters at all of its stores, then matched every dollar raised.
Taking Care of Customers
For the past two years, VERC has also been reaching out to its regular customers by giving away a free popular store item—such as an ice cream sandwich—on the first day of every month to anyone who enters the store. “They don’t have to purchase anything. Whether it’s a c-store customer, a Dunkin’ Donuts customer or a car wash customer, all are eligible,” Vercollone said.
VERC is driving Briteway car wash sales currently with its Wacky Wednesdays and Super Sunday promotions—both include half price car washes all day. A member of the WaterSavers program, Briteway recently reached its goal of recycling 90% of its wash water—using all fresh water only on the final rise.“We’ve been in the car wash business a long time and plan to be known as a top car wash operator,” Vercollone said. “When you’re in this industry, you have to adapt. Water is a resource and we want to be known as environmentally sensitive.”
To that end, the company invested in a $150,000 upgrade to its Marshfield, Mass., car wash to install equipment needed to recycle the water. It expects to see a return on investment as the car washes become known for providing quality, environmentally-friendly washes at a great price.“Some companies do a car wash business on the side because they view it is an alternate profit center, but we really focus on washes, which we have been operating since we started the business, and we look at it as a major part of our business model,” Vercollone said. “Above all our focus is on customer service, our community involvement, OTP, gasoline sales and our car washes.”
As the company maintains its focus, it continues marching toward its goal of reaching 30 locations, keeping its eyes open for sites mainly in Massachusetts. The chain is open to also considering sites in New Hampshire, but only if the location is right.“I want to grow VERC Enterprises and focus on superior sites. We don’t go out and buy a chain of 10-12 stores and then have 3-4 that are underperforming. I specifically pick the individual stores located in the marketplace we want to be in, the community we want to serve, and that works with our business model,” Vercollone said. “We’re not into quantity—we’re into delivering a quality offering.”