2010 Rutter’s Farm Stores Inc.
Legacy and Leadership
Superior Leadership Remarkable Service and a dazzling foodservice menu are the hallmarks of the convenience store industry’s extraordinary chains. Following these guiding principles, Convenience Store Decisions honored Rutter’s Farm Stores as the 2010 Convenience Store Chain of the Year.
At a time when many industry marketers are struggling with exorbitant credit card fees and remarkable competition, Rutter ’s has not only persevered, but pushed forward with an exquisite new convenience store design and invested millions since 2008 to upgrade its entire 55-store network.
Rutter ’s, which supplanted Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes as Chain of the Year, is the 21st winner of this prestigious award, considered the gold standard in convenience retailing. Like Nice N Easy, Rutter’s is the second consecutive chain under 100 stores to receive the award, emphasizing that it’s not the size of the chain that matters, rather the quality of its offering.
Heading Rutter ’s retail operations is Scott Hartman, the third-generation president and CEO of Rutter ’s Farm Stores. Under his watch Rutter ’s has made enormous strides to firmly cement the family-owned business as one of the industry’s top marketers.
“For us the emphasis has always been on doing things right and meeting the needs of our customers. If we do a good job executing, expansion will take care of itself,” Hartman said. “That’s why the Chain of the Year award is so special to us. Having grown up in the convenience store industry, I have long marveled at the successes of past winners. Being mentioned with such stalwarts of the industry is an honor.”
Being nestled in Central Pennsylvania has its advantages. Rutter ’s has carved its niche among upscale, time-pressed consumers that value convenience. It also has a downside: some serious competition. Whether it’s other convenience store chains, drug stores—Rite-Aid is based in Harrisburg, Pa.—dollar stores or mass merchandisers all seem to be targeting convenience store customers.
But even as the economy limps along, Rutter ’s has managed to grow its retail portfolio. Rutter ’s special talent has been its ability to constantly reinvent itself, from its humble beginnings as a local Pennsylvania dairy to adding fuel operations and foodservice. Along the way, it became an integral part of the local community. The company is wrapping up the most ambitious growth plan in its 40-year history. It is investing more than $55 million to build 10 stores and 11 car washes, which will add 350 new jobs and more than $4.5 million in annual wages and benefits to the area economy.
Even with a strong foundation, the onus is on each individual company to chart its growth and execute. There is a long list of companies with deeper pockets and bigger operating teams that have crumbled because they failed to execute at the store level. This is another area Rutter ’s excels.
“You’ve got to constantly reinvest in the business because the needs of customers are constantly changing,” Hartman said. “That’s also been part of our success through the years..”
To that end, Rutter’s has lived on the cutting edge when it comes to key operating areas like foodservice, technology, store design, hiring and training and category management.
As part of its evolution, Rutter’s is moving forward with its impressive new store design. The latest model is a far cry from the convenience stores of the past. The prototype boasts a modern design, including open ceilings, extensive use of floor and wall tiles, bathrooms with floating ceilings, music and other upscale accents. The design is environmentally friendly, including a white roof to keep the building cooler while reducing energy demand.
The store features Rutter’s latest foodservice offerings, including stir fry, fajitas and fresh-baked breads.
“This is one of the most impressive floor plans I’ve ever worked on,” said Jeff Leedy, senior vice president of marketing for Rutter ’s. “In some older stores, you walk around displays that you either see or trip over. Our focus was to open things up a little bit so our customers can walk around the store and get what they need, not dance around obstacles. It’s those little things that customers appreciate the most.”