PRIDE Stores

Pride Stores picPRIDE Stores distinguishes itself from other gas stations/convenience stores with high-quality food and attractive surroundings.
By Jim Harris

Mario Spina knows that many people have preconceived notions about the quality of the food available in gas station convenience stores. “The biggest thing we battle is getting the perception of gas station food out of people’s minds when they come to our locations,” says Spina, CEO of the Warrenville, Ill.-based PRIDE Stores. “We want people to look past the fact that our food is made in a gas station.”

The company in recent years renovated its locations in the Chicago-area market to make them more appealing to guests, and added three foodservice concepts: Urban Counter, The PRIDE Café and Taco Urbano. “We try to do things differently than most gas station convenience stores in this market,” Spina says. “We try to carry name brands along with a heavy focus on fresh, high-quality food at an affordable price.”

The Urban Counter concept serves half-pound hamburgers, made-to order breakfast sandwiches, handmade milkshakes, and fresh salads. The PRIDE Café sells paninis, side salads, expresso drinks and crepes. Finally, Taco Urbano offers a modern twist on traditional Mexican food. The PRIDE Stores also has a number of fresh grab-and-go offerings it makes at a central commissary in Warrenville that is self-distributed to all of its locations. 

PRIDE Stores locations frequently advertise, promote and sample their food items to help promote sales. Since adding the new foodservice concepts, the company has seen its quick-service restaurant sales increase 45 to 50 percent year-over-year since opening. “Once people try the food, they come back,” Spina says. 

In addition to offering high-quality food, PRIDE Stores also distinguishes itself from its peers by selling a wide selection of craft beer and boutique wines. “Some of our wine selections sell for as much as $60 per bottle, which is not typical for a convenience store,” he adds. 

Top-Down Support

The PRIDE Stores’ renovations include hardwood vinyl flooring, wainscoting and decorative painting to its stores. New gas pumps, fuel islands and car wash equipment were also added. “We try to keep a warm feel in all of our stores and make sure all of our equipment is well-maintained and clean,” Spina says. “We try to take pride in every location we have – not only regarding how it’s run, but how it looks.”

The company’s sense of pride – which inspired the stores’ name – extends to employees and management. “Our culture comes from the top down. We believe that no matter what your role in the organization is, that you’re treated the same way,” he adds. “If our people are happy in their jobs and feel they are getting support from the top down, they can perform their jobs at a higher level.”

Diverse Holdings

There are 12 PRIDE convenience store gas stations in the Chicagoland market with 3 more scheduled to be added by the end of this year. The PRIDE Stores are owned by Parent Petroleum, a wholesale supplier of fuel and lubricants. A separate division of the parent company, CIMA Developers, oversees property development and management as well as buying, selling and leasing real estate. Pride Stores box

Founded 35 years ago by Spina’s father, Peter A. Spina, Parent Petroleum supplies 350 gas stations with every major brand of fuel including Shell, Mobil and BP. The company is the largest branded BP distributor in the United States. In addition, the company distributes lubricants including Castrol. Spina runs the retail and real estate sides of the company directly. 

In addition to owning the PRIDE Stores, CIMA Developers also owns and leases space in two retail centers, and plans to build an additional two retail centers in the next few years.

Getting Crafty

One of CIMA/Parent’s existing retail centers in St. Charles, Ill., will soon house 93 Octane, a nano-brewery owned by the company. The 1,000-square-foot brewery will initially produce a New England-style IPA beer available in four packs of 16-ounce cans, plus 19.2-ounce bombers. A second beer, a bourbon barrel stout, will follow along with other seasonal beers. 

The 93 Octane beers will be sold only in PRIDE Stores. “Craft beer is a very big segment of the industry now, and we will continue to carry a large selection of beer from numerous craft brewers, but this will allow us to further distinguish ourselves from other stores,” Spina says. “We will be providing a product that is not made by another brewery and that has our own name on it, which is exciting for our organization.”

Ongoing Projects

Two new PRIDE store locations are now under construction in Naperville and Palatine, Ill. The Naperville location will be the first newly constructed gas station to offer the Amoco flag since BP re-introduced the brand earlier this year. Amoco gas stations had previously been rebranded to BP since 2008. “There are a lot of people excited to see the Amoco brand back, so it will be interesting to see how much of a draw that is for customers,” Spina says. The Palatine location will carry BP brand gasoline.

The new Naperville PRIDE store will also include an Urban Counter location, TCBY frozen yogurt, and a car wash along with beer and wine sales. The Naperville store is anticipated to open in October, and the Palatine store is scheduled to open before the end of the year.

In addition to building new stores, the company is remodeling stores it recently purchased in West Chicago, Ill., and Dyer, Ind. The new stores will include new car washes, Urban Counter locations and fuel dispensers. 

Two future PRIDE store locations are going through the approval process in St. Charles and Homer Glen, Ill. Ultimately, the company is targeting 18 to 20 locations in the Chicago area. “Currently our 12 stores sell 60 million gallons of fuel per year, so we have very high-volume locations,” Spina adds. 

“Typically, a good gas station sells around 70 to 90,000 gallons of fuel per month — our stores average more than 400,000. With our model, we strive to have very high-volume fuel and convenience store sites,” he adds. “We’re very particular when choosing a location to develop because we want to ensure the site is able to do the volumes we expect from a PRIDE store.”

 

Keeping it Simple

The PRIDE Stores recently rolled out its new PRIDE Points loyalty program, which CEO Mario Spina says is meant to be extremely straightforward. “Our tagline is that it is ‘as easy as 1,2,3,’” he says. 

Customers earn one point for every dollar spent on fuel or gas, two points for every dollar spent inside of a store, and three points for special items such as food, beer, wine and spirits. Once 500 points are collected, customers can take $5 off a purchase. The PRIDE Stores also offer “Buy 5, Get the 6th Free” cards for coffee, fountain drinks and TCBY purchases, he adds. 

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