With a full-service deli business, idiosyncratic stores and strong community ties, this second-generation convenience chain is the best pit stop in the eastern Hudson Valley.
By David Bennett, Senior Editor
During the heyday of travel on Route 66, gas stations had their own unique identities. Akin to motels adorned with massive wagon wheels or furnished wigwams, gas stations in the 1950s and 1960s featured styles that reflected the regions where they operated.
In that same spirit, Flory’s Convenience, Gas & Delis, based in Fishkill, N.Y., has been converting passing motorists into loyal customers since 1970.
After opening its most recent location in the city of East Fishkill two months ago, the family-owned c-store is busy planning the next phase of the company’s retail operation, which might be compared to a public swimming pool: plenty of fun on the inside and enough of a splash to grab people’s attention.
FUN ON THE INSIDE
Its flagship store, also located in the city of Fishkill off Interstate 84, blends modern functionality via items such as E85 fuel blend for flex vehicles, LED lighting and a drive-through, and architecture reminiscent of the classic Route 66. The 3,000-square-foot store is highlighted by a retro design set off by colorful neon lighting adorning the sloping, vintage canopy outside and a distinctive décor inside.
The store features memorabilia and displays of the Statue of Liberty and other New York icons, which ensure visitors that they aren’t too far from the Big Apple. Hunched above the beer cave is a large artificial polar bear, which—depending at which angle you look—appears to be real.
Whether it’s done through design or through specific branding, developing a theme can be the idea that sets a store apart from larger competitors, said Jamy Flory, company vice president. That’s been the strategy behind the unique themes of the four-store chain.
Its newest East Fishkill location, which was erected from an old two-bay gas station, boasts a theme in line with the community where the new store was built.
“We kind of adapt to wherever the store is, and that store happens to be across the street from a high school, so the whole theme in that store is sports-oriented,” Flory said. “We have a lot of jerseys from the high school, a lot of football equipment, wrestling equipment, basketball jerseys, hoops on the wall.”
The new site also has a Dunkin’ Donuts in addition to its normal deli and foodservice selections.
Because of each store’s own distinctive style and design, it’s fun planning and constructing each single location, Flory said. Yet, each store shares some similar traits, including floor plans and branding.
“We have a 1950s character, Little Jerry, who is named after my father, and it’s from that era of full-service. He’s always around so you know that you’re in a Flory’s Convenience & Deli. When I grew up he was out there pumping gas, with the little towel hanging out of the back pocket, taking care of customers, and that’s how we developed our theme.”
AT THE START
Positioned midway between the Hudson River and the Connecticut and Massachusetts state lines, the Taconic Parkway is a scenic roadway for area motorists. It also seemed a strong strand to support a gas station start-up, which the Flory family launched in 1970.
Converting a two-pump, mechanical-bay garage, the family chose the city of Mahopac for its first store. Though that location is gone today, there’s a modern Flory’s close by—a new build “two blocks up from the original site.” Jamy Flory and his brother graduated from high school and then college before immersing themselves in the business.
“It was the era when Mom and Pop stores were converting into convenience stores,” Flory said.
Over the years, the c-store has earned a loyal following through quality customer service, affordable fuel offerings and clean bathrooms. It was when Flory’s wanted to revamp its foodservice program that the retailer’s growth pattern changed.
Paul DiPalma, Flory’s director of operations and controller, said the convenience retailer decided a quality deli program was the right fit for the c-store—a conclusion that other convenience retailers have reached, based on industry data.
Millennials are an important consumer demographic for in-store deli departments, as 42% of Millennials shop the prepared foods department—compared to 33% of baby boomers and 21% of Gen Xers, according to the “What’s in Store 2016” report from the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association.
Flory estimates that is took a number of years of trials and tabulation to determine the right recipe for its foodservice offerings. The company wanted to capture Americans’ penchant for local, healthy and freshly-prepared foods. The company tried some foodservice variations, but didn’t capture the unique authentic, New York deli experience.
Eventually Flory’s refined its menu to include fresh breakfast sandwiches, soups, churros and traditional favorites such as pastrami and other Boar’s Head-brand meats and cheeses, popular wedge fries, chicken cutlets and hot entrees such as chipotle chicken over Spanish rice and sautéed vegetables.
Aside from the neon lighting and New York sports pennants, Flory’s learned that a good deli program and solid promotions were main attractions. From time to time, Flory’s offers 10 cents off a gallon of gas during the morning, which is driving customers inside to purchase breakfast, snacks and drinks.
Of course, today’s customers don’t live by cold cuts alone. Wi-Fi and dining outside are available at Flory’s. DiPalma said 2016 will welcome the company’s first app, which it is now researching, to include talking with various vendors. Once the app is integrated, it will open a new chapter in the c-store’s customer-service toolbox.
“We’re going to have an app that’s going to have coupons directed to the customers,” DiPalma said. “We’re also looking at customers being able to do deli ordering through the app.”
Though Flory’s does promote a fun atmosphere at its stores, the company is also involved in serious causes, including giving to charities and hiring employees with disabilities.
However, its recent involvement in the fight against cyberbullying is where the retailer has shifted its focus—through the suggestion of a customer.
By definition, cyberbullying occurs among young people. Cyberbullying is bullying through Internet applications and technologies, such as instant messaging, social networking sites and cell phones. It can start easily—with a rumor, a photo or a forwarded electronic message—and just as easily spiral out of control, Flory said.
The Flory’s Website provides resources to fight cyberbullying, including help organizations that customers can access.
“We all live and work and we have families in the neighborhoods where our businesses are located,” Flory said. “And it really came out of that. There’s a day that we hand out flyers out at all our stores, and there’s a Website that parents can go to if there is an issue.”