Big Y Foods Inc. and F.L. Roberts & Co. Inc., two long established western Massachusetts, family-owned and operated businesses, have partnered in a new venture to develop their own brand of convenience stores with fuel under the name Big Y Express.
The first facility will open in the fall of this year in Lee, MA at Exit 2 of the Massachusetts Turnpike.
The inaugural Lee location is the result of a carefully crafted strategic alliance, and will incorporate a new and unique retail design and merchandising format for both Big Y and F. L. Roberts. It will feature the traditional F.L. Roberts product mix along with many Big Y proprietary private brand products, like Big Y milk and fresh baked breads. This will be Big Y’s first venture into the vehicle fueling arena. Uniquely, as well, will be the ability for both the Big Y Savings Card customers and the F. L. Roberts RewardsPlus customers, to each save money on gas purchases, as well as earn discounts toward other store merchandise.
Big Y and F.L. Roberts have been conducting business in Western Massachusetts for more than 75 and 90 years, respectively. Big Y is one of the largest independently-owned supermarket chains in New England and F.L. Roberts owns and directly operates a network of automotive service companies, including convenience stores, truck fueling facilities, car washes, and Jiffy Lube locations. The joint venture between these two, third and fourth generation, family-owned and operated businesses was a logical next step in their relationship, which has included many past cross-marketing efforts. F. L. Roberts will be the operating partner and fuel supplier of the new convenience stores, while Big Y will provide its years of expertise marketing snack, grocery, fresh made ready to eat offerings, and many of Big Y’s private label products.
Drawing on their different industry’s expertise, the strategy is to create a new and exciting generation of convenience stores. This first Big Y Express location is just several hundred feet from Big Y’s new Housatonic St., Lee, Mass.-based World Class Market, which will be able to provide exceptional product support for the new venture. F. L. Roberts has been supplying fuel to the previous operator of this service station site, which will now feature Big Y brand gasolines and diesel fuel.
Contributing to the economic growth and development of the greater Springfield area is a priority for both companies, who each operate approximately 60 sites throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut, employing a total of nearly 11,000 people.
“This new partnership gives us the best of both worlds. On the one hand, we can learn about gas stations and convenience stores. On the other, we are able to provide our expertise in food coupled with a strong private brand to enhance the experience for our customers,” says Big Y President and Chief Operating Officer Charles D’Amour.
The new venture will combine both companies’ customer loyalty programs, which will allow Big Y customers to use their Silver Savings Card at F.L. Roberts locations for the same benefits offered in the F.L. Roberts RewardsPLUS program. Offering gasoline is a trend that many grocery chains nationwide have been replicating in order to enhance their marketing efforts.
Steve Roberts, F.L. Roberts president, noted he is very excited about the new alliance. “In keeping with both families’ commitments to our founder’s roots, Grandpa Frank, for Roberts, and Paul and Gerry for Big Y, this alliance is very unique in today’s challenging business environment by adding to our economy’s local economic growth. Instead of selling out to a big conglomerate or chain, two local well established companies are combining their expertise to help each other grow to better service our customers and communities,” he said.