Pump & Pantry Poised for Growth

With an innovative store design, an updated fresh food offering and a new loyalty program in the works, the Nebraska chain is set for a strong 2011.

By: Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.

Pump & Pantry Convenience Stores is pushing forward with an aggressive plan to redesign its chain of 43 stores.

The Grand Island, Neb. chain recently completed the raze and rebuild of its St. Paul, Neb., location as part of its strategy to remodel about 2-3 sites a year. But it also has its eye on expansion in other ways, including delving into a customer loyalty program, enhancing the quality of its roller grill program and utilizing its parent company’s acquisition of an indoor football team to drive local store sales.

The improved Pump & Pantry store in St. Paul, which reopened for business in mid-March, replaced an older location previously housed on the same property. The store, which will serve as the prototype design for all new builds and redesigns, features friendly graphics, new cupboards and cabinets, wood-tone walls and a tan floor.

“The coloring creates a warm environment, and then new LED lighting in the coolers and canopies really makes the store stand out,” said Wayne Davis, c-store division manager for The Bosselman Family of Cos.

Pump & Pantry recently began adding LED lighting to its c-stores to reduce energy and save on utilities. “We have to weigh the expense for each location to see if it is worth retrofitting, but any new construction going forward will involve LED lighting,” Davis said.

A Family Affair
Fred Bosselman founded the company that bears his name in 1948 when he opened Bosselman & Eaton Truck Stop in Grand Island with his brother, brother-in-law and sister. In 1965, he built the first Bosselman Truck Plaza and, in 1971, he opened the first Pump & Pantry franchise store, later acquiring the rights to the Pump & Pantry brand in 1975. Since that time, the chain has experimented with various models, from mobile stores to locations with the checkout counter positioned in the center of the store.

“That layout didn’t work as well for cigarettes because it can’t accommodate a wide variety of brands. It also made it difficult for sales associates because customers could walk all around them,” Davis said. “For better customer service, we’ve found that if the sales counter is at one end of the store, it works a lot better. So we’ve gone back to that model with food prep at the other end. That draws customers through the entire store.”

Three stores built in the late 90s continue to use the cashier station in the middle model today, while at least seven, including the St. Paul location, use the newer model.

Over time, the Bosselman business grew into a family enterprise and expanded into several new ventures, supervised by Fred Bosselman’s sons: Fred Bosselman Jr. and Chuck Bosselman; and his grandson Charlie Bosselman, who heads the company today.

Most recently, the corporation purchased the rights to an indoor professional football team called the Nebraska Danger, also headquartered in Grand Island, Neb.

Driving Sales
Pump & Pantry wasted little time leveraging the gridiron brand. In addition to promoting the Nebraska Danger at the store level through signage, apparel and fountain cups with the Nebraska Danger team schedule on the side, Pump & Pantry stores sell tickets to the football games.

“The first game was just on March 7, so we’re just getting involved, but the town is really behind this and supportive of the team,” Davis said. “It’s been working out pretty well so far.”

Pump & Pantry also introduced Danger Dogs to its roller grill on March 1, in honor of the team. The monstrous half-pound hot dog retails for $2.99.

Growing Into the Future
When it comes to foodservice, Pump & Pantry emphasizes the roller grill. “We have two large roller grills in every store and we keep them full all day and evening. We have tornados, hot dogs, and in the mornings we have breakfast items,” Davis said, adding that the chain also offers food warmers with croissants and hot sandwiches.

Beyond the roller grill, the chain looks to stay on top of new grocery items and focuses on providing a “fresh, clean and friendly” environment.

To further entice customers, Pump & Pantry plans to roll out a loyalty program over the next few months. While the program is still in the developmental stages at the c-store level, the company’s Boss Shops recently debuted a loyalty card that allows customers to gain points for purchases and monitor rewards online—a model the company will look to as it develops its c-store program.

On the fuel side, Pump & Pantry offers Sinclair branded gasolines, and also features various grades of ethanol-based fuels, which benefits  the chain as gas prices are rising due to the unpredictable events overseas.

“Nebraska is a large ethanol-producing state,” Davis said. “We have installed ethanol pumps at six stores, so we tend to push different grades of ethanol, anywhere from the E-10, to E-20, E-30 and also E-85 at those locations, as well as regular unleaded fuel. It’s starting to really take off, especially now with the higher prices at the pump on regular fuel. E-85 is around 60 cents less a gallon, so that is picking up, and should improve as more people with later-model cars are able to use that type of fuel.”
In addition to growing its family of businesses, Pump & Pantry remains open to expanding its convenience store count, whether through acquiring existing stores or ground-up builds, if the right opportunity arises.

“We do watch for anything that might open up in northern Kansas and more so in the eastern part of the state,” Davis said. “Here in the parts of Nebraska where we operate, it’s all smaller towns and rural areas, and it’s a challenge for growth in those towns, but it’s mainly our business to be in those areas.”

At a Glance:

The Bosselman Family of Cos.
Founded in 1948, Bosselman operates a diverse retail portfolio that covers 20 states with more 1,300 employees. A family company in its third generation, Bosselman has been a community service leader for 63 years and has supported the local market through financial contributions and sponsorships of youth scholarships and other community events. Its operations include:
• 43 Pump & Pantry Convenience Stores
• 8 Bosselman Travel Centers
• 28 Boss Truck Shops
• 6 Grandma Max’s & Max’s Highway Diner Restaurants
• 9 hotels under the Hampton Inn, Motel 6 and Pump & Pantry brands
• Schmooter’s Bar & Casino
• Multiple food courts featuring Subway, Little Ceasers, Caribou Coffee and Wendy’s
• The Nebraska Danger indoor professional football team

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