The creator of “feel-good” convenience stores has passed away.
On June 1, 2016, the passionate, imaginative and innovative James “Jim” Edward Mitchell passed away, at the age of 76.
For over 30 years, Mitchell worked as a designer for a number of convenience stores and truckstops, according to Asian American Trade Association Council (AATAC). Mitchell began his company, Jim Mitchell and Associates, which later became Mitchell Design Group, and worked across the U.S. and in 39 countries.
“Jim was a master of detail, and he had a unique skill at lighting and colors,” said Bill Douglass, chairman of the board of Douglass Distributing Co., Sherman, Texas. He said Jim thought stores needed to be larger, open with big windows, easy to shop, carpeted for sound and dust control and containing lots of natural light.
Mitchell retired in 2006 with glaucoma, but his daughter confirmed that he never stopped designing, AATAC reported. “That was him; that was his whole life,” his daughter, Michele Pearce said.
Even in recent years, Mitchell continued to produce designs for Douglass Distributing. According to AATAC, Mitchell had put forth new designs for the company in the last three years.
The report from AATAC suggests that Mitchell was best known for his “Home Plate” store design, which used by multiple convenience store chains in the 1990s. This popular design (pictured below) resembled a baseball diamond and offered an “open-air market” feel. The design features a branded food department, food-court seating, drive-thru window and circular checkout.
“It was really groundbreaking for our industry,” said Lou Sheetz, former executive vice president and active board member for Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz. “Jim was very good at product placement, understanding the behavior of the customer as they navigated a convenience store. … He understood customers—older customers, females, kids—he just really made a point to understand how they think and how they shop.”
In addition, Mitchell really understood Bubba. “Bubba is sort of a southern thing and he was a southern boy. I think he grew up with Bubba, which is why he knew him so well,” Sheetz said.
Mitchell also worked with Buc-ee’s owners Don Wasek and Arch Aplin. He created the Lake Jackson, Texas-based chain’s beaver logo during a chance encounter 34 years ago, AATAC reported.
“Aplin and I were eating at a very busy restaurant in the Dallas area. We were sitting at a table for four and because there [were] just two of us, a nice gentleman walked over and asked if he could join us. We said sure. [Jim] asked what we did for a living, and we told him. He picked up a napkin and drew our logo, and we have been using it ever since,” Wasek said.
Mitchell also worked with ExxonMobil, Texaco, Sinclair Oil, CITGO and Nice N Easy, among many others, according to AATAC.
Funeral services for Mitchell were held June 4.